National

Aug 9, 2012 8:00 AM by CNN News

Tropical Storm Ernesto regains its punch in the Gulf

(CNN) -- Tropical Storm Ernesto hugged the southern edge of the Bay of Campeche early Thursday, strengthening in its warm waters, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm's forecast map shows it regaining hurricane status.

As of 5 a.m. ET, the storm was about 65 miles (100 km) northeast of Coatzacoalcos, the hurricane center reported. Ernesto was moving west at 16 mph, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

"Some strengthening is expected and Ernesto is forecast to become a hurricane before making landfall," forecasters said. "Weakening is expected after the center moves over land."

A storm becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph.

After crossing the Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday, Ernesto is expected to make landfall a second time on Mexico's coast by Thursday night.

A hurricane warning is in place along the coast from Veracruz to Chilitepec in the extreme southwest Gulf of Mexico.

Between 4 to 8 inches of rain are expected in some areas of the region, with as much as 12 inches in parts of the Mexican states of Tabasco, Veracruz, Puebla and northern Oaxaca through Friday.

"These rainfall amounts may produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides over higher terrain areas," forecasters said.

Ernesto is expected to produce additional rain accumulations of 1 to 2 inches over northern Guatemala and the southwestern Yucatan Peninsula through Thursday morning.

Ernesto will cause a surge when it reaches the coast, increasing water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels in the area near and north of where the storm makes landfall, the hurricane center said.

Ernesto made initial landfall Tuesday night as a Category 1 hurricane in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula.

In Chetumal, the state capital, officials asked residents to remain indoors throughout the night as the storm hit.

Some areas were flooded or without electricity Wednesday morning.

Civil protection officials worked throughout the storm to evacuate some residents living in low-lying areas who had initially refused to leave, a local journalist, Carlos Perez, told CNN en Español.

Shelters were open throughout the area, providing food, he said.

In Honduras, classes were canceled in the northern part of the country, where the effects of the storm were felt. There was flooding in some areas, but no major damage.

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