Tropical Storm Alex was gaining strength as it swept across the Gulf of Mexico Monday on its way to Mexico's northeastern coast - well clear of a massive oil spill.
The storm left four people dead in Central America over the weekend and could become a hurricane later in the day or tomorrow as it heads toward Mexico's coast. According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, heavy rains are expected to begin lashing the Mexican states of Tamaulipas or Veracruz around midweek.
The heavy rains prompted a landslide in northwestern Guatemala that dislodged a large rock outcropping, killing two men who had taken shelter from the storm underneath, according to the national disaster-response agency. In El Salvador, two people were said to have been swept away in floods. About 500 people were evacuated from their homes. But in Belize, hundreds of residents and tourists who had fled low-lying islands for shelters on the mainland began returning on Sunday.
Tropical Storm Alex is not expected to hit the area of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But as the Associated Press reports, the storm's outer bands could push oil farther inland. Meteorologists also warn that a storm's track can quickly change.
Forecasters say Alex will keep growing in strength over the coming days. Rain is predicted to keep falling on southern Mexico and Guatemala until Tuesday, and life-threatening floods and mudslides could follow in its wake.