NEW ORLEANS -- Tropical Storm Alex is expected to strengthen into a hurricane but is heading away from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said Monday.
A tropical storm watch was issued for the Gulf Coast of Texas from Baffin Bay to Port O'Connor, and a hurricane watch continued from south of Baffin Bay to La Cruz, Mexico. A tropical storm watch means that storm conditions are possible in the designated area within 48 hours.
Alex continues to have maximum sustained winds of 60 mph with stronger gusts, the Hurricane Center said at its 5 p.m. ET forecast. Alex was located about 520 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, and was moving toward the north-northwest at 5 mph, the center said.
In addition, forecast models were starting to show much better agreement and Alex was expected to make landfall sometime Wednesday along the northern Gulf Coast of Mexico about 50 miles south of Brownsville, Texas.
The storm appears headed away from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Alex could become a Category 3 hurricane, the Hurricane Center said.
"We will know much more as this storm continues to intensify today and tomorrow," the Hurricane Center said Monday in a statement.
"We think the storm is going to stay on a more southern track. That would be good news because it would avoid the area near the oil spill," said Todd Kimberlain of the Hurricane Center. However, forecasters have not ruled out an easterly shift in Alex's path.
"We all know the weather is unpredictable, and we could have a sudden last-minute change," said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's response manager.