A strengthening Tropical Storm Alex was expected to become a hurricane Tuesday as it swirled toward the Gulf coast of northern Mexico and southern Texas, where authorities were readying emergency shelters and distributing sandbags.
Forecasters said the storm's likely path would take it away from the site of the huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill off Louisiana's coast, but added that it might push oil farther inland and disrupt cleanup efforts.
Alex had maximum sustained winds near 70 mph (110 kph) early Tuesday, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami predicted the storm would grow into a hurricane sometime Tuesday as it headed toward the U.S.-Mexico border at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Landfall seemed likely Wednesday night.
Forecaster Todd Kimberlain said conditions Monday led the center to conclude the storm would be a less powerful hurricane than initially thought.
Tropical storm-force winds extended up to 105 miles (165 kilometers) from the storm's center, and Alex was moving toward the north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).