Franklin became the first hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic season Wednesday as it churned toward the Mexico coast near Veracruz.
In their 5 p.m. advisory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm was expected to make landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday with sustained winds of 75 mph and higher gusts. Much of the central and southwest coast was under a hurricane or tropical storm warning Wednesday afternoon bracing for a hit.
Franklin is headed west at about 12 mph, with hurricane force winds extending 35 miles from its center and tropical storm force winds stretching 140 miles.
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Forecasters warned the wet storm could dump between four and eight inches of rain, with up to 15 inches possible, raising the risk of dangerous flash floods and mudslides. They also warned that storm surge could reach up to 6 feet near landfall and to the north.
On Monday night and Tuesday, Franklin crossed the Yucatan Peninsula, causing little damage, according to The Associated Press. Some power outages were reported and trees toppled.
But officials warned the storm’s second punch could be more forceful.
“The second impact could even be stronger than the first,” said Mexico Civil Defense director Ricardo de la Cruz.
The area Franklin was expected to pass across north of Veracruz has been battered by deadly mudslides and flooding in the past. State authorities ordered all public school classes canceled Thursday as a precautionary measure. Schools are frequently used as storm shelters in Mexico.
Franklin marks the first hurricane in what is sizing up to be a busy season. Earlier Wednesday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters revised their preseason prediction for the number of storms based on warm ocean temperatures, favorable winds and the decreasing likelihood that a late summer El Niño will appear to smother storms.
They now say odds are good that the season will produce between 14 and 19 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes with winds topping 111 mph.
Franklin arrives right on time as the season swings into what is typically its busiest time. According to Colorado State meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, 21 hurricanes have formed on Aug. 7 or 8 since satellite records began tracking storms in 1966.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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