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MIAMI — Hurricane Alex was becoming stronger in the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday, but was expected to skirt oil fields before making landfall later in the day or early Thursday.

The first named storm of the Atlantic season became a Category 1 hurricane late Tuesday night as it slowly moved west toward northern Mexico where it was expected to drop as much as a foot of rain.

The National Hurricane Center warned that Alex could become a Category 2 storm before hitting the coast south of Brownsville, Texas. It would then start to weaken as it moved over the land.

While the storm was forecast to miss major oil drilling sites, rough seas and rain were already hampering efforts to control damage left by an ongoing spill from the major leak at a BP Plc facility south of Louisiana.

Alex’s storm center early Wednesday was about 235 miles southeast of Brownsville, the NHC said. The storm was moving westward erratically about 5 mph far south and west of the BP oil spill.

The NHC said Alex packed winds of 80 miles per hour and sustained even higher gusts.

A hurricane warning was issued from the Texas coast south of Baffin Bay, about 250 miles southward past the mouth of the Rio Grande to La Cruz, near the Mexican coast. Except for the border area itself, both regions are lightly populated. Hurricane-force winds extended 15 miles from the storm center, the NHC said. Tropical storm forces reached up to 175 miles.

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