Skip to main content

Karl hits Mexican mainland, weakens to tropical storm

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Karl is downgraded to a tropical storm
  • NEW: It is weakening rapidly over the mountains of Mexico
  • Hurricane Karl made landfall in Veracruz, Mexico
  • Heavy rain could still cause problems

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- What was Hurricane Karl weakened Friday to a tropical storm after making landfall, but the heavy rain it spawned could still cause mudslides and flash floods in the Mexican interior, forecasters said.

Karl was downgraded after coming ashore as a Category 3 hurricane about 10 miles (15 kilometers) north of Veracruz, Mexico, CNN's satellite and radar estimates showed.

The storm is forecast to weaken to a tropical depression later Friday or Saturday and dissipate over the mountains of Mexico on Sunday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Friday evening. It added the Mexican government has discontinued all coastal watches and warnings.

The storm delivered torrents of rain and fierce winds several hours before it hit land around 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET). Photographs sent to CNN's iReport by Ricardo Arcaraz, who lives in Veracruz, showed heavy rain and trees on top of power lines. He reported widespread outages.

Maximum sustained winds later weakened to around 70 mph (115 kph) with higher gusts, according to the Hurricane Center. Karl, located about 75 miles (115 kilometers) east of Puebla Mexico, was moving west-southwest at about 9 mph (15 kph), it said.

Satellite images and surface observations from Mexico suggest Karl is weakening rapidly as it passes through steep mountains, the Hurricane Center added.

High winds remain a threat, though forecasters said they will likely weaken too in the coming days.

The homes of at least 3,000 families in central Mexico were damaged, the state-run Notimex news agency reported.

"Tropical storm force winds are occurring in a small area near the center. These winds will continue to spread inland along the track of the center tonight but should decrease rapidly as Karl weakens," the Hurricane Center said.

Potentially dangerous rain also was forecast.

"Karl is expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches across portions of south-central Mexico, with isolated amounts of 15 inches possible in the mountains," the center said. "These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."

Within the past day or so, some 8 inches of rain has fallen in Veracruz, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

Some local flooding was already reported, the Mexican Interior Ministry said.

Officials closed some roads and urged evacuations for large, low-lying areas in Veracruz.

Mexico's National System for Civil Protection issued a red alert, the highest level, for central and southern Veracruz. An orange alert was in place for northern Veracruz and the states of Hidalgo, Tlaxcala and Puebla. A yellow alert was issued for the states of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Oaxaca.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon also sent a warning Friday morning on his Twitter account.

"An alert for Hurricane Karl in the nation's central states," it said, adding that Karl "could convert to a Category 4. It will enter through Veracruz around midday."

Texas could be spared any major problems because a storm surge occurs only near the landfall location, said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.

Coastal flood advisories have been issued for south Texas, which means forecasters expect a small amount of coastal flooding but nothing serious, Morris said.

A larger threat to south Texas will come from several inches of rain that could cause flooding and mudslides. The area could see as much as 4 inches by Sunday, with isolated amounts of up to 6 inches in far southern Texas.

CNN meteorologists Brandon Miller and Mari Ramos contributed to this report.