MEXICO/ TEXAS -- Tropical Storm Alex approached hurricane strength Tuesday as it churned off the northwestern coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in the Bay of Campeche, the National Hurricane Center said.
Alex was moving west-northwest, the hurricane center reported in its 8 p.m. ET advisory, noting that the storm was advancing at 12 mph.
The center reported the storm has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.
The storm continued to move away from the massive BP oil catastrophe near the Louisiana coast in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the Gulf Coast from Baffin Bay, Texas, to La Cruz, Mexico. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions and tropical storm-force winds are expected in the forecast area within 36 hours. Forecasters predicted the storm would strengthen into a hurricane, with sustained winds of 74 mph or more, within several hours.
The hurricane center's forecast map shows Alex making landfall sometime Wednesday evening as a Category 1 storm along the northern Gulf Coast of Mexico, south of Brownsville, Texas.
Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada said on Tuesday that his city was expecting to distribute 60,000 sandbags and provide shelter for roughly 2,000 families. Utility crews were put on standby to handle outages. At the same time, 90 buses had been provided by the state government in case an evacuation is required.
"I expect about 10 percent of residents to evacuate voluntarily, which already started yesterday," Ahumada said. "I see a steady flow of people going out, but no bottlenecks -- which is good."
Texas Governor Rick Perry issued a disaster proclamation for 19 counties and ordered the pre-deployment of state resources Monday. The governor's declaration allows the state to initiate necessary preparedness efforts, such as pre-deploying resources to ensure local communities are ready to respond to disasters.
The governor's order puts up to 2,500 National Guard personnel, eight UH-60 helicopters and three C-130 aircraft on standby for rapid deployment as needed, Perry's office said in a statement.