NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico – Mexican authorities urged people to move to shelters while officials in Texas distributed sandbags and warned of flash floods as Tropical Storm Hermine headed toward the northwestern Gulf coast on Monday.
It is the second major storm to hit the area this season. Hurricane Alex roared ashore there in June, killing at least 12 people as remnant rains drenched a wide swath of northeastern Mexico for days.
Hermine could approach hurricane strength before making landfall early Tuesday in a sparsely populated area about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Matamoros, a city bordering Brownsville, Texas, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
A hurricane watch was issued for the area from Rio San Fernando, Mexico, northward to Baffin Bay in Texas.
The cattle-ranching region is one the most dangerous in Mexico's turf war between two drug cartels. It is the same area 72 migrants were killed two weeks ago in what it believed to be Mexico's worst drug gang massacre to date.
Mexican emergency officials urged people living in low-lying coastal areas to move to shelters, but there were no immediate evacuation plans.
"We urge the general population to be on alert for possible floods and mudslides," said Salvador Trevino, director of civil defense of Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is located.
On the Texas coast, emergency officials readied pumping equipment and distributed sandbags in Cameron County, said John Cavazos, the county's emergency management coordinator. He said they are also suggesting that people in recreational vehicles in county parks along the coast should move.
He officials are worried about flooding because the ground is already saturated from earlier rains. Some areas could get up to 12 inches of rain, he said.
"Anyone living in ... an area that's known to flood, they need to take some precautions," Cavazos said.
Frank Torres, emergency management coordinator for Willacy County, said officials are preparing sandbags and making sure people know a storm is coming.
"It just popped up out of nowhere," he said. "We're anticipating some flooding. The good thing is it's going to blow through here very quickly."
No evacuations had been ordered in Texas.
A midday Monday, Hermine was located about 85 miles (135 kilometers) northeast of La Pesca Mexico and 140 miles (225 kilometers) southeast of Brownsville on Monday morning, and was moving north-northwest near 13 mph (21 kph).
The storm's maximum sustained winds strengthened to 60 mph (95 kph).
Heavy rain is predicted with northeastern Mexico into south Texas getting 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) with as much as a foot in some places.
Associated Press Writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.