(Updates with death toll in first paragraph.)
Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Tropical Storm Manuel may strengthen to a hurricane, bringing new flooding to Mexico, as the nation struggles to clean up after two storms that killed at least 80 people and trapped thousands of tourists in the resort city of Acapulco.
Flooding rains starting last week from Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid have driven 40,000 people from their homes and stranded 40,000 more in Acapulco, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, according to the nation’s interior ministry. Another tropical system may be on its way.
“The last time the country experienced two phenomena of this nature at the same time, one in the Pacific and the other in the Gulf, was in the 1950s,” said Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, according to a transcript of remarks sent to reporters. New storms “could eventually bring rains once again, very strong and intense. This could practically be a repeat of what we’ve seen in past days, both in the Pacific and in the Gulf.”
Manuel’s top sustained winds rose to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour as of 5 p.m. New York time, 4 mph under the threshold for hurricane status, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. It may reach that later today.
The system was moving north-northwest at 5 mph about 120 miles west-northwest of Mazatlan.
Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the western coast from La Cruz to Topolobampo and tropical storm warning from La Cruz to Mazatlan. A storm watch is in place from Cabo San Lucas to San Evaristo on the Baja California peninsula.
“Because it’s moving so slow, it’s going to continue to generate heavy rainfall,” said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The center said as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) may fall in the state of Sinaloa.
Forecast models are split on where Manuel will go, Kottlowski said. Some take it north into mainland Mexico, while others have it drift west across Baja California. The hurricane center’s forecast track takes the storm to the mainland.
Over the weekend, Manuel struck Mexico’s Pacific coast, driving heavy rains into the mountains, while at the same time Hurricane Ingrid pushed in from the Bay of Campeche. As much as 15 inches of rain was reported in some areas near Mexico’s eastern coast, Kottlowski said.
More rain certainly fell in the mountains, although exact measurements have been hard to come by because many locations were cut off, he said.
Ingrid broke apart in central Mexico yesterday, while Manuel degenerated in the Pacific only to be reborn today at the mouth of the Gulf of California.
Grupo Aeromexico SAB and Interjet said today they’ll fly all stranded Acapulco tourists for free to Mexico City as airport conditions improve.
“Surely, due to the effects of the rainfall, which will continue, we’ll have more victims in shelters in order to protect their lives,” Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong said. “The president has ordered to continue with all resources necessary to supply food in all states where there are victims.”
A low-pressure area in the Gulf of Mexico has an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical system in the next five days, according to the hurricane center.
“Regardless of development, this disturbance will likely spread heavy rains over portions of eastern Mexico and could cause life-threatening floods and mudslides over areas already impacted by torrential rains during the last several days,” Jack Bevin, a senior hurricane specialist at the center, said in a forecast.
The system will probably become Tropical Storm Jerry soon, said Jared Smith, a meteorologist with MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
“It does seem likely that we will see something develop on this,” he said. “The biggest question mark is what exactly happens at the end of the week.”
Kottlowski said the system might be picked up by a cold front coming across Texas and pushed further north into the Gulf of Mexico for a possible landfall somewhere between Louisiana and Florida. There is also a chance it will go west into Mexico, he said.
The Gulf is home to about 23 percent of U.S. crude production, 5.6 percent of gas output, and more than 45 percent of petroleum refining capacity, according to data from the Energy Department. The southern end of the Gulf, the Bay of Campeche, is where Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil company known as Pemex, has its two largest oil fields, which produce about 1.25 million barrels a day.
In the Atlantic, forecasters are also tracking Tropical Storm Humberto, currently 1,670 miles west-southwest of the Azores with top sustained winds of 40 mph. It isn’t an immediate threat to land.
--With assistance from Edward Welsch in Calgary, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez and Brendan Case in Mexico City and Jose Enrique Arrioja in New York. Editors: Charlotte Porter, David Marino