- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Paula on Tuesday strengthened into a Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 100 miles per hour off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that Paula was moving north-northwest at near 10 mph.

The storm was about 140 miles south-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and its center was forecast to approach the resort-dotted east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Honduran emergency officials have been urging coastal residents to evacuate low-lying areas, and Mexico issued a hurricane warning as strong winds and rain battered the Caribbean coast.

Paula formed Monday off the Honduran coast and quickly intensified into a hurricane early Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Heavy rains and high winds destroyed 19 homes in northeastern Honduras, said Lisandro Rosales, head of Honduras’ emergency agency. Officials closed schools along the country’s Atlantic coast, and some airports were reported closed.

Paula was expected to dump from 3 to 6 inches of rain on Honduras, northern Belize, eastern portions of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and parts of western and central Cuba.

The government of Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the country’s Caribbean coast from Punta Gruesa north to Cabo Catoche, including the island of Cozumel. Warnings are issued when hurricane conditions are almost certain to occur.

Forecasters warned of possible flooding and landslides and suggested residents avoid fishing trips or water sports.

Forecasters said the storm would produce heavy rains that could cause flash floods and mudslides, especially in the mountains of Nicaragua and Honduras. It said isolated, mountainous areas in Honduras could get as much as 10 inches of rain.

Coastal flooding from heavy waves was also expected along the eastern coast of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula.


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