Tropical Storm Stan strengthens to a hurricane and moves towards Mexico's Gulf coast

Tropical Storm Stan strengthened to a hurricane early Tuesday and barreled toward Mexico's Gulf coast, forcing the evacuation of several oil platforms.

Forecasters said the storm was indirectly causing rain in Central America that had sparked flooding and landslides, leaving at least 31 people dead in El Salvador. Rain was still falling Tuesday in much of Central America, driving thousands from their homes in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Stan was expected to hit a swampy, sparsely populated area of coastline later Tuesday. However, the storm will likely swipe Veracruz, a busy port 185 miles east of Mexico City.

A hurricane warning was issued for part of the Gulf coastline, from Palma Sola southeast to Chilitepec, and rain and winds were already pelting the region early Tuesday.

Some trees were uprooted and officials reported scattered power outages as the storm's outer bands reached the coast.

Veracruz's port was closed, schools canceled classes and officials at a nearby nuclear power plant prepared the facility for the category one hurricane's strong winds and rains. Thousands of residents abandoned their homes and stayed in some of the 2,000 shelters set up all along the coastline.

It was unclear how the evacuations of at least five oil platforms would affect production at Pemex, the world's third-largest oil producer and a major supplier to the United States. The company pumps about 3.4 million barrels a day of crude, just over half of which it exports.

The storm was located 105 miles southeast of Veracruz early Tuesday, and was moving toward the southwest at 10 mph, the AP reports.

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