Tropical Storm Nate started to dump light but steady rain on Mexico's Gulf coast on Saturday night as its winds brought stronger surf just hours before ramping up to hurricane force.
Strong waves and wind gusts forced beach restaurant owners to pick up chairs and tables and fold umbrellas to prevent accidents.
People in the city of Tuxpan, in northern Veracruz state on the Gulf of Mexico, carried on with business as usual, with families gathering at cafeterias and shopping at grocery stores.
The government of Mexico issued a hurricane warning from Tuxpan to the port of Veracruz. The Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center urged authorities and residents in the warning area to take steps to protect life and property.
"Nate is expected to be a hurricane before landfall ... the center of Nate will reach the coast of Mexico in the hurricane warning area on Sunday," the center said in its latest report.
The oil-exporting ports of Cayo Arcas and Dos Bocas remained closed to shipping and two other smaller ports were also shut in the southwest Gulf of Mexico.
State oil company Pemex evacuated 473 workers from five sea platforms as a precaution. Nate had cut Mexican oil production by 178,800 barrels a day as of Friday.
Local media reported a fisherman drowned on Friday after strong surf capsized his little boat in the Bay of Campeche area, and 10 oil industry contractors were missing after they evacuated a rig in the same area.
At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT), Nate was carrying maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (100 km per hour) and its center was about 170 miles (275 km) east-southeast of Tuxpan.
To the east, Caribbean islands that were lashed by Hurricane Irene last month looked set to be spared any major impact from Tropical Storm Maria.
Maria, carrying winds of 45 mph (75 kph), was moving northwestwards near the northern Leeward Islands in the Caribbean.
ReutersLast Mod: 11 Eylül 2011, 09:37