MEXICO CITY -- Tropical Storm Nate was bearing down on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and its famed tourist resorts Friday after battering Central America, where it was blamed for at least 21 deaths.
The storm's projected path showed it passing over the peninsula by early Saturday, crossing the Gulf of Mexico and making U.S. landfall this weekend, prompting a hurricane warning on the northern Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama.
A tropical storm warning and hurricane watch were in effect for areas on and near the Yucatan Peninsula, including the tourist hubs of Cancun and Cozumel.
The tropical storm was expected to gather force over the Caribbean Sea before hitting Mexico.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Nate could reach near-hurricane intensity when it approaches the peninsula later Friday, "bringing direct impacts from wind, storm surge, and heavy rain." Life-threatening flash floods are also possible, the hurricane center warned.
In Mexico, officials said they were bracing for the arrival of the storm later Friday but had not issued evacuation orders. Authorities issued a low-danger "green alert," urging residents and visitors to take basic precautions such as having bottled water ready and being aware of announcements from civil protection personnel.
On Friday, Nate was expected to hit Cancun on the northeast coast of the Yucatan and the island of Cozumel east of the peninsula.
Officials from the coastal state of Quintana Roo advised tourists to stay in their hotels as the storm hit and be in touch with hotel personnel. Visitors were warned to stay off the beaches, as storm-whipped waves could approach 10 feet.
As a precaution, officials in Quintana Roo and neighboring Yucatan state said they were mobilizing rescue brigades and preparing emergency shelters.
The National Hurricane Center said Nate would continue to pose a threat of flash floods and mudslides in Central America, which has been battered by torrential rains from the storm.
Nate has been blamed for at least 21 deaths in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, The Associated Press reported. Nate's arrival in Nicaragua followed two weeks of near-constant rain that had left the ground saturated and rivers swollen. Authorities placed the whole country on alert and warned of flooding and landslides.
(Sanchez works in the Times' Mexico City bureau.)
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