Richard to become hurricane, closes in on Belize

* Some tourists, residents evacuating in Honduras

* Remnants could reach oil platforms in Gulf of Mexico

* Central American coffee, sugar producers at risk

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Tropical Storm Richard
strengthened on Saturday as it dumped rain on Honduras and was
seen reaching hurricane strength before hitting Belize and
Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula later in the weekend.

The storm was about 65 miles (105 km) north of Cabo Gracias
a Dios, a remote area known as Honduras’ and Nicaragua’s
“mosquito coast” where indigenous groups live in wooden houses
along rivers vulnerable to flooding.

Richard had top sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (105
kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Some residents and tourists were evacuating from the
mosquito coast area in Honduras as winds picked up, local civil
protection officials said.

“Richard is expected to become a hurricane on Sunday,” the
NHS said.


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The 17th named storm in the Atlantic this year, Richard
will likely barrel through southern Mexico and emerge in
Mexico’s oil-rich Bay of Campeche as a tropical depression, the
NHS said.

Some computer weather models forecast that it could then
veer north toward the U.S. oil and natural gas production
facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Honduras has issued a hurricane watch and a tropical storm
warning for the coast from the Nicaragua-Honduras border
westward to Limon, Honduras, the hurricane center said.

However, Honduras and Guatemala, Central America’s top two
coffee producers, said on Friday the storm was not expected to
directly hit the main coffee growing regions, although more wet
weather could complicate the start of the harvests set to begin
this month.

The coffee- and sugar-producing countries of Central
America are recovering from damage to infrastructure and crops
after serious storms this summer.

Richard was moving westward at 8 mph (13 kph) and could
pass near the northern coast of Honduras on Saturday night
before striking Belize and southeastern Mexico late on Sunday,
the NHC said.

Slow-moving storms like Richard can cause devastating
damage as they amble over land for several days dumping rain.
Hurricane Mitch moved in slow motion over Central America in
1998 killing more than 11,000 people, mostly in flash floods
and mudslides, and became the second most deadly Atlantic storm
on record.

Elsewhere, the hurricane center pointed to a low-pressure
system in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa with a 20
percent chance of becoming a depression.
(Writing and additional reporting by Jason Lange in Mexico
City, Editing by Sandra Maler)

Richard to become hurricane, closes in on Belize