MIAMI – Tropical Storm Nate is heading in a north-northwesterly direction toward Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula after bringing torrential rains that left at least 22 dead in Central America, the United States’ National Hurricane Center said Friday.
After strengthening in recent hours, Nate is located 280 kilometers (175 miles) southeast of Cozumel – an island located opposite the beach resort of Playa del Carmen and just off the Yucatan’s eastern coast – and could make landfall in far-eastern Mexico Friday evening.
Nate is then expected to strengthen even more in the coming days, move in a northerly or northeasterly direction over the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall one final time on Sunday as a hurricane at some spot in the US states of Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana.
In its 1500 GMT bulletin, the Miami-based NHC said Nate was moving to the north-northwest at 33 km/h (21 mph) and was packing maximum sustained winds of 85 km/h (50 mph).
It said the tropical storm was expected to be packing hurricane-force winds (119 km/h or more) by the time it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico.
But the deadliest aspect of the storm are its torrential rains, which are blamed for at least 22 deaths in Central America, have left several others missing and thousands homeless and caused severe flooding and damage to infrastructure and agriculture.
Although the center of Nate has already moved north of Central America, meteorologists say accumulated rainfall over the next couple of days could rise to a maximum of 381 millimeters (15 inches) in southern Honduras and western Nicaragua and to 203 millimeters (eight inches) in eastern El Salvador and north-central Honduras.
Heavy rains also are forecast for the Yucatan Peninsula, western Cuba and parts of the US Gulf Coast.
The NHC even warned that torrential rains could affect areas very far from Nate’s center such as Central America’s Pacific coast, which are at risk of life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.