Washington - Grinding closer to the Mexico-Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico Hurricane Dolly Wednesday forced residents of Brownsville, Texas to brace for the border town's first hurricane in almost a decade.
Already on Wednesday some 500 residents of San Benito, Texas had fled their homes to seek shelter in a school building.
The second hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic storm season was about 65 kilometres east of Brownsville home to some 172,000 people at 9 am local time Wednesday moving at about 11 kilometres per hour, according to the US National Hurricane Center. The storm rating had been raised to a Category 2 event, meaning winds over 160 kilometres per hour, before landfall, the center said.
"Tree branches are down, and a lot of streetlights are out," Sokie Gonzales, 55, a lifelong resident and a manager of Brownsville's Super 8 motel, told Bloomberg news. "We've gathered flashlights and backed up the computers. Now we wait."
Dolly is the season's first hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, home to more than a quarter of US oil production. The storm has steered south of most rigs located offshore from East Texas and Louisiana.
A hurricane warning stretches for about 300 miles along the US and Mexican coasts, from Corpus Christi, Texas, southward to Rio San Fernando, Mexico. Dolly may make landfall by noon in Brownsville.
The northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas began evacuating people after Dolly shifted its path northward from the Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday.
Some 23,000 people were moved from their homes and hundreds of troops were sent to the state where heavy rain, flooding and overflowing rivers had already damaged property.
Texas mobilized 1,200 and National Guard members after a hurricane watch was declared for part of the coast south of Corpus Christi.
Many people barricaded their homes as a precaution against rising water levels, while others left for safer areas. Radio and television issued hourly situation reports and gave details of emergency plans.
Meteorologists fear that low-lying coastal areas could be flooded and warned that inland regions might also be affected in the coming days.
Mexico is also being pummelled by Tropical Storm Genevieve, which is moving in a westerly direction along the Mexican coast bringing heavy rainfall in the southern states of Guerrero, Michoacan and Colima.
The hurricane season in the Atlantic officially lasts from June 1 to November 30, and experts were expecting 15-20 storms over this period. (dpa)
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