Strengthening Storm Alberto takes aim at Mexico's Gulf coast, at least three dead

By Sarah Morland and Stephanie Hamel

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -The outer edges of Tropical Storm Alberto began to unleash heavy rains over parts of northeastern Mexico near the U.S. border late on Wednesday as the large tropical system closed in on the Gulf coast, killing at least three people.

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm was located about 135 miles (217 km) east of the Mexican port of Tampico, packing maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph), as military and emergency services personnel braced for its full impact.

Alberto is the first named storm of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, though its sustained wind speeds remain below hurricane strength.

The deaths of at least three people, all minors, have been attributed to Alberto, Nuevo Leon state Governor Samuel Garcia told local media. He did not give any details.

One of the victims has been identified as a 15-year-old boy who was swept away by the current of a river and drowned outside the city of Monterrey, Mexico's third biggest, in Nuevo Leon state, according to a report from the city's emergency services.

The NHC noted some "slight strengthening" is possible over Wednesday night.

The center of Alberto is expected to make landfall along the coast of Mexico's Tamaulipas state, just south of the U.S. state of Texas, early Thursday morning. While it will likely weaken quickly, it is also seen bringing torrential rainfall, coastal flooding and strong winds.

The NHC warned of considerable flash flooding in the storm's path, including in urban areas, along with swollen rivers and potential mudslides.

Mexico's national water commission Conagua also issued a warning for overflowing rivers, landslides and flooding.

Governor Garcia encouraged his state's residents to avoid leaving their homes amid heavy rainfall and said preparations were in place to quickly address possible impacts to local power supplies, water and sewage systems.

Along the U.S. Gulf coast, including parts of Texas and Louisiana, videos posted on social media showed some flooding in coastal towns and waves smashing into sea walls.

The NHC also cited the possibility of further coastal flooding along with the formation of tornadoes in Texas linked to Alberto.

(Reporting by Stephanie Hamel and Sarah Morland; Additional reporting by Brijesh Patel, Writing by Aida Pelaez-Fernandez; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Sandra Maler and Miral Fahmy)