Jose Garcia hammers down roof shingles on his home as...

Jose Garcia hammers down roof shingles on his home as rain bands from Tropical Storm Alex begin to move overhead in Monte Alto, Texas on Tuesday. Garcia wanted to finish his roof before heavy rain from Alex hit the area. (June 29, 2010) Credit: AP

MATAMOROS, Mexico — Hurricane Alex bore down on Mexico and southern Texas Wednesday, flooding roads and forcing thousands of people to evacuate from fishing villages.

The storm was far from the oil spill cleanup, but rough seas pushed more of the oil onto Gulf coast beaches and cleanup vessels were sidelined by the hurricane’s ripple effects.

Alex had winds of 80 mph (130 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center, and it was the first June hurricane in the Atlantic since 1995, the center said.

Bands of heavy rains quickly inundated roads Wednesday in the Mexican border city of Matamoros, a worrisome sign with Alex expected to dump as much as 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in the region, with perhaps 20 inches (50 centimeters) in isolated areas.

The hurricane could become a Category 2 storm with winds of 96 mph (154 kph) before slamming into the coastline Wednesday evening or early Thursday about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Matamoros and Brownsville, Texas. The flat, marshy region is prone to flooding.

Many in the border city braved the growing rains: Commuters struggled to get to work, pedestrians crossed the bridge connecting Matamoros and Brownsville and newspaper hawkers manned the less-flooded intersections.

Matamoros Civil Protection Director Saul Hernandez said officials would begin evacuating about 2,500 people from coastal areas east of the city Wednesday morning. But Hernandez said he was most concerned about 13,000 families in low-lying areas on the outskirts of town where there are few public utilities or city services.

One flooded stretch of road nearly kept Mari Ponce from getting to her job at the Mundo Shelter, which was preparing for 800 people evacuated from fishing communities along the coast.

“It’s not going to hit us (directly), but Matamoros is a place that really floods,” she said.

Government workers stuck duct tape in X’s across the windows of the immigration office at the main downtown bridge in Matamoros on Tuesday. Trucks cruised slowly down residential streets carrying large jugs of drinking water and cars packed supermarket parking lots.

Texas also watched Alex’s outer bands warily. Alex was expected to bring torrential rains to a Rio Grande delta region that is ill suited — economically and geographically — to handle it.

Texas residents had been preparing for the storm for days, readying their homes and businesses and stocking up on household essentials.

In Cameron County, one of the poorest areas of the U.S. and Texas’ southernmost point, Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada said he would wait to make his city’s emergency declaration — in part because the city is cash strapped and he did not want to start paying city workers extra before absolutely necessary.

On nearby South Padre Island, the mood was less anxious. Although hotels and restaurants looked deserted compared to the crush of vacationers who normally pack the popular vacation spot in the summer, those who stuck around didn’t size up Alex as much of a threat.

One couple renewed their wedding vows on the beach as a few campers rumbled their trailers — reluctantly — out of the park hours before a mandatory evacuation deadline.

“It’s June. It’s too soon for hurricanes,” said Gloria Santos, of Edinburgh, after hitching her trailer back to her truck.

Jerry Wilson, 50, also didn’t think much of Alex, though he struggled in the fierce gusts to hoist a cloth-tipped pole to clean high-mounted cameras across the island that will let Internet viewers watch Alex’s arrival live online.

“We got two generators and lots of guns and ammo, so we’re not worried about it,” Wilson said.

The National Weather Service said a hurricane warning was in effect Tuesday for Cameron, Willacy and Kenedy counties. The coastal warning covered Baffin Bay and 100 miles south to the mouth of the Rio Grande.

Oil rigs and platforms in the path of the storm’s outer bands were evacuated, and President Barack Obama issued a pre-emptive federal disaster declaration for southern Texas counties late Tuesday.

The three oil rigs and 28 platforms evacuated are not part of the Gulf oil spill response.

As of 10 a.m. CDT Wednesday (1700 GMT), Alex was 190 miles (310 kilometers) southeast of Brownsville moving west-northwest at about 7 mph (11 kph).

MTA disability exemptions plan … Former Chaminade high president dies … $7 million house for sale  Credit: Newsday

Updated 56 minutes ago LI doctor dies at Disney World ... Outlaw Music Fest ... LI Nets player shot in Philadelphia ... $7M house for sale 

MTA disability exemptions plan … Former Chaminade high president dies … $7 million house for sale  Credit: Newsday

Updated 56 minutes ago LI doctor dies at Disney World ... Outlaw Music Fest ... LI Nets player shot in Philadelphia ... $7M house for sale 

Latest videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months