UPDATE 3-Richard expected to become hurricane, hit Yucatan

* Central American coffee, sugar producers at risk

* Remnants could reach oil platforms in Gulf of Mexico

* Some tourists, residents evacuating in Honduras
(Updates position, wind speed)

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 22 (BestGrowthStock) – Tropical Storm Richard
strengthened on Friday as it churned toward Central America,
triggering a hurricane watch along the Honduras-Nicaragua
border still recovering from months of heavy rains.

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

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

Honduras 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.

Packing 45 mile-per-hour (70 kph) winds, Richard was
located about 130 miles (210 km) 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.

The storm was moving westward at 5 mph (8 kph) and some
increase in forward speed was expected in the next couple of
days, the 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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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.

“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.

COFFEE LIKELY SPARED

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.

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

“We have to keep monitoring,” until the storm season ends
around Nov. 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.

Honduras’ national coffee institute maintained its forecast
of around 3.5 million 60-kg bags of exports for the 2010/11
season on Friday despite serious rains, an increase from the
previous cycle which ended last month.

Elsewhere, the hurricane center pointed to two low-pressure
systems in the Atlantic: one 100 miles (160 km) southwest of
the Cape Verde Islands with a 40 percent chance of becoming a
depression, and another about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) 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,
Scott DiSavino in New York and Jason Lange in Mexico City;
Writing by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Xavier Briand)

UPDATE 3-Richard expected to become hurricane, hit Yucatan