Tropical Storm Franklin heads for coast of Mexico’s Yucatan

Mexican authorities set up shelters, cleared storm drains and evacuated low-lying areas on the Caribbean coast Monday as Tropical Storm Franklin arrival bore down for an expected nighttime landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Franklin had top sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) Monday evening as it swirled over the northwestern Caribbean. It was moving west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph) and was centered about 120 miles (195 kilometers) east of Chetumal, capital of Quintana Roo state.

The Quintana Roo state government was moving people from the most vulnerable coastal communities, Adrian Martinez, coordinator for the state’s Civil Protection agency, told Milenio television.

Shelters were being readied in the area, with one specifically designated for the residents of Mahahual, a popular beach destination. Officials also urged all businesses to begin closing at 6 p.m. and gas stations to shut down beginning at 8 p.m. to help clear the streets.

Earlier, the state government said the Chetumal airport near the border with Belize would close at 6 p.m., but Martinez said it might be kept open a few hours longer.

Franklin was expected to come ashore sometime Monday night, possibly near hurricane strength, then cross over the peninsula into the Gulf of Campeche by Tuesday on a path toward central Mexico.

A hurricane watch was in effect for the coast of Mexico from Chetumal to Punta Allen. Tropical storm-force winds extended up to 140 miles (220 kilometers) from the center.