Tropical storm hits Mexico coast, quickly weakens

(AP) VERACRUZ, Mexico - Tropical Storm Helene quickly weakened into a tropical depression Saturday after moving ashore on Mexico's Gulf Coast, bringing strong rains but few reports of damage.

Forecasters said Helene still posed a threat to areas where thousands of people are recovering from flooding spawned last week by Hurricane Ernesto, although the Veracruz state civil defense office said none of the region's numerous rivers had overflowed. Some streets flooded in low-lying neighborhoods of the port city of Veracruz.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the depression had winds of about 30 mph (45 kph) Saturday afternoon. It was 65 miles (105 kilometers) west-northwest of Tampico, an oil-refining center and important port in Tamaulipas state. The city with about 790,000 inhabitants sits just above sea level and is surrounded by lakes and lagoons vulnerable to flooding.

Helene was moving west-northwest at 5 mph (7 kph), and was expected to dissipate Saturday night or early Sunday.

The storm came ashore early Saturday in a lush coastal region of oil centers and tourist resorts with hundreds of towns and villages lying beside streams and rivers that can swell dangerously in heavy rain. Many were evacuated as Ernesto approached last week, and flood damage left some 10,000 people homeless.

The U.S. hurricane center said an additional 2 inches (5 centimeters) to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain could fall across northern Veracruz, southern Tamaulipas and eastern San Luis Potosi state.

Veracruz state Civil defense Secretary Noemi Guzman said "moderate to intense" rain had fallen in the northern part of the state, which borders Tamaulipas. Guzman urged residents to stay at home and avoid venturing out in the storm.

In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Gordon strengthened into a hurricane as it moved toward the east on a track that could take it near the eastern Azores islands Sunday night. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) and it was 590 miles (950 kilometers) west-southwest of the Azores.