UPDATE 2-Richard to become hurricane, dumps rain on Honduras

* Honduras prepares shelters for up to 50,000 people

* Remnants could reach oil platforms in Gulf of Mexico

* Central American coffee, sugar producers at risk
(Adds evacuations, updates storm position)

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 175 miles (280 km) east of the Honduran
port city of La Ceiba after brushing past the remote Miskito
coast region where indigenous groups live in wooden houses
along rivers vulnerable to flooding.

Richard had top sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (100
kph) and would likely barrel through southern Mexico and emerge
in Mexico’s oil-rich Bay of Campeche on Tuesday as a tropical
depression, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Richard, the 17th named storm in the Atlantic this year,
might eventually veer north toward U.S. oil and natural gas
production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, according to
forecasts by some computer weather models.

Honduran authorities said they were evacuating residents
and tourists from several coastal areas.

“(We will) evacuate between 3,000 and 4,000 people that
live in coastal zones where there could be a storm surge and
heavy winds,” said Randolfo Funez, an emergency response
official.

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 Miami-based hurricane center said. Honduras and Belize
issued hurricane warnings, and Mexico started evacuating
fishermen on the Yucatan peninsula.

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

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Full coverage [ID:nN2005]

Graphic http://www.reuters.com/subjects/hurricanes

Weather links

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

http://www.skeetobiteweather.com/

http://www.wunderground.com/tropical/

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PEMEX EYES STORM

Mexico’s state oil company said it was watching the storm
as it drew closer to the Bay of Campeche, where Mexico produces
more than two-thirds of its 2.6 million barrels-per-day of
crude output.

“We’re on alert but no measures have been taken (to modify
operations before the storm),” said a spokesman for the
company, known as Pemex.

Tropical storms and minor hurricanes rarely cause serious
damage to Pemex’s oil installations.

Honduras and Guatemala, Central America’s top two coffee
producers, have said the storm was not expected to hit the main
coffee-growing regions directly, 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.

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 10
percent chance of becoming a depression.
(Additional reporting by Isela Serrano in Cancun, Mexico;
Writing by Jason Lange; Editing by Jerry Norton)

UPDATE 2-Richard to become hurricane, dumps rain on Honduras