MIAMI, FL --The first tropical storm of the Atlantic season gained force as it headed for Mexico's central Gulf coast on Wednesday, bringing a threat of floods and mudslides. Tropical Storm Arlene could hit land north of the coastal city of Tuxpan early Thursday a little short of hurricane force, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Officials in the states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi said they were monitoring the storm and preparing for possible flooding. The state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, said it would consider whether to evacuate its oil platforms off the Veracruz coast later Wednesday. By early afternoon, the hurricane center said the storm was centered about 95 miles (155 kilometers) east of Tuxpan, with sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph). It was moving toward the west at 8 mph (13 kph). The Mexican government shifted its tropical storm warning south, from the fishing village of La Pesca to Palma Sola. A hurricane watch was also in effect from the tourist zone of Barra de Nautla to La Cruz. Rain was falling along Mexico's Gulf coast ahead of the storm, and officials warned residents about impending winds and rain. Officials said 6 inches (150 millimeters) of rain were possible in northern Veracruz state. The main threat to Mexico comes from heavy rains that could cause flash floods and mudslides in 13 states, the government said. Forecasters say extreme south Texas also could get rain. If heavy rains come to the state of Tamaulipas, they will fall on soil dried out by the most severe drought to hit the area in 50 years. There is still unrepaired damage from Hurricane Alex, which struck the area Category 2 hurricane last year.
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