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Hurricane Richard forms over the Caribbean, nears Belize

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Hurricane Richard forms over the Caribbean, nears Belize

2010-10-24 23:33:19 GMT+7 (ICT)

MIAMI (BNO NEWS) -- Tropical Storm Richard strengthened into a category one hurricane over the Caribbean Sea on late Sunday morning, meteorologists said. The storm is expected to soon make landfall in Belize.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Richard was located about 155 kilometers (95 miles) east-southeast of Belize City, the largest city in Belize. It was moving toward the west-northwest near 19 kilometers (12 miles) per hour, a general motion which is expected to continue through Tuesday.

Meteorologists at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Richard has maximum sustained winds near 140 kilometers (85 miles) per hour with higher gusts, but meteorologists expect the storm to strengthen slightly before moving inland.

"Given the favorable cyclone structure and environment, Richard should continue to intensify before making landfall," said Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center. "Weakening will occur as the cyclone traverses land over the next couple of days. When Richard emerges into the extreme southwestern Gulf of Mexico, strong west-southwesterly shear should prevent re-intensification."

Forecasters expect Richard to make landfall in Belize on late Sunday morning or early Monday morning, after which it will weaken to a tropical storm and move through the extreme northern part of Guatemala. Eventually, Richard will move over a part of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico as it weakens to a tropical depression before entering the Gulf of Mexico where it should weaken to a post-tropical depression.

As of Sunday morning, a hurricane warning is in effect for Belize and Honduras from Limon westward to Puerto Cortes and the Bay Islands, including Roatan Utila and Guanaja.

Additionally, a hurricane watch is in effect for the east coast of Yucatan, Mexico from Punta Gruesa to Chetumal. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the east coast of Yucatan, Mexico from Punta Gruesa to Chetumal and Honduras from west of Puerto Cortes to the Honduras/Guatemala border.

Richard is a relatively small hurricane, with hurricane force winds extending outward up to 30 kilometers (15 miles) from the center. Tropical storm force winds, however, extend outward up to 165 kilometers (105 miles).

As a result, tropical storm conditions are expected to begin along the coasts of Belize and southeastern Mexico by Sunday afternoon, with hurricane conditions expected along the coast of Belize by Sunday evening.

The storm will likely raise water levels by as much as 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels along the northern coast of Honduras and Belize, and 1 to 3 feet in the Bay Islands. "Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves," Pasch warned.

Pasch said Richard is also expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 3 to 6 inches over the Bay Islands, Belize, and the southern Yucatan Peninsula, with maximum amounts of around 10 inches. "These rains could produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, especially in mountainous terrain," Pasch added.

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-- © BNO News All rights reserved 2010-10-24

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