MIAMI, FL --The first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season gained force as it headed for Mexico's central Gulf coast 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. Rain was falling along the 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. Forecasters said extreme south Texas also could get rain. The main threat to Mexico comes from heavy rains that could cause flash floods and mudslides in 13 states, the government said. If heavy rains hit the state of Tamaulipas, they would fall on soil dried out by the most severe drought to hit the area in 50 years. There was still unrepaired damage from Hurricane Alex, which struck the area as a Category 2 hurricane last year. By Wednesday afternoon, the storm was centered about 140 miles (225 kilometers) east-southeast of Tampico and had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). It was moving west-northwest near 7 mph (11 kph). The Mexican government posted a hurricane watch from the tourist zone of Barra de Nautla to La Cruz in Veracruz state. It shifted a tropical storm warning south, from the Veracruz fishing village of La Pesca to Palma Sola.
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