By David Alire Garcia
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Ingrid doused eastern Mexico with heavy rain on Friday, helping to close two key ports and prompt state oil monopoly Pemex to take steps to protect its operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
Though currently stationary, Ingrid, the ninth storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened during Friday and could become a hurricane before hitting land late on Sunday or early on Monday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
An official with Pemex said the company was closely monitoring Ingrid, but has not ordered any major installations to be closed. Still, the travel of oil workers in the area both by air and ship has been "temporarily interrupted" until the weather improves, Pemex said in a statement.
On its Twitter page, Pemex also said preventative actions were being taken to safeguard "personnel, platforms, ships and installations." It did not give further details.
Pemex's Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel located in the Ku Maloob Zaap oil field, Mexico's biggest, has been closed since Friday morning, according to the transport and communications ministry. When operating normally, the FPSO directly exports crude to docking oil tankers.
Both Cayo Arcas and Dos Bocas, two of Mexico's main oil terminals, were closed. The port of Coatzacoalcos was closed to small boats, but open to larger ships, the ministry said.
Oil export hubs often shut intermittently during the hurricane season, but export deliveries are usually only affected if the closures are prolonged.
Ingrid was about 60 miles east of Veracruz, with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (97 km per hour), the NHC said.
Pemex's main oil fields as well as Dos Bocas and Cayo Arcas are all located in the vicinity of the storm, in the shallow waters of the Bay of Campeche. The Lazaro Cardenas refinery in Veracruz state is closest to the projected path of Ingrid.
Ingrid was expected to dump between 10 inches and 25 inches of rainfall over a large part of eastern Mexico, which could cause rivers to swell and provoke flash floods and mud slides, according to the NHC.
The Mexican government has issued a hurricane watch north of Cabo Rojo to La Pesca, the NHC said. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Coatzacoalcos to Cabo Rojo.
Separately, tropical storm warnings are in effect on the Pacific coast from Acapulco to Punta San Telmo due to the presence of tropical storm Manuel.
Located around 180 miles south of the port of Lazaro Cardenas, Manuel is moving west into the Pacific.
(Reporting by David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Anupam Chatterjee in Bangalore; Editing by Dave Graham, Simon Gardner, Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Shumaker)