Richard to become hurricane, hit Yucatan

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (BestGrowthStock) – Tropical Storm Richard headed toward Central America on Friday, triggering a hurricane watch along the Honduras-Nicaragua border, a region already hit by months of heavy rains.

The 17th named storm in the Atlantic so far this year will strengthen into a hurricane this weekend before hitting Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Monday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted.

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

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

Richard on Friday was located about 150 miles east 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.

“Some residents along the mosquito coast are evacuating voluntarily, but once the threat becomes more serious we will go into red alert and start forcing evacuations,” said Lizandro Rosales, head of Honduras’ emergency services committee.

He said some tourists were preparing to leave Honduras’ outlying Caribbean islands, also in Richard’s path.

After crossing the Yucatan, the remnants of Richard could emerge in Mexico’s oil-rich Bay of Campeche before possibly tracking toward the U.S. oil and natural gas production facilities in the northern Gulf of Mexico, the NHC and some computer weather models forecast.

While the storm is not expected to directly hit Guatemala’s main coffee growing regions, more wet weather could complicate the start of the harvest set to begin this month.

“We have to keep monitoring,” until the storm season ends around November 30, Guatemala’s emergency services spokesman David de Leon told Reuters. “But we don’t want anymore (storms),” he said. More than 260 people have died in Guatemala this year in floods and landslides.

Elsewhere, the hurricane center pointed to two low pressure systems in the Atlantic: one a hundred miles south of the Cape Verde Islands with a 30 percent chance of becoming a depression, and another about 1,000 miles east of the eastern Caribbean Islands with a 10 percent chance of strengthening.

The weather models forecast the Cape Verde system would pose no threat to land, other than maybe the Cape Verde Islands, as it moves northwest in the Atlantic closer to Africa than North America over the next several days.

It was too soon for the weather models to project where the other Atlantic system, with a 10 percent chance of developing, would make landfall, if at all.

(Additional reporting by Sarah Grainger in Guatemala City and Scott DiSavino in New York; Writing by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Jackie Frank)

Richard to become hurricane, hit Yucatan