Chetumal, Mexico (AFP) Oct 12, 2010
Hurricane Paula intensified Tuesday as it headed for Mexico's resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba after drenching parts of Central America during a particularly active storm season.
Mexican authorities upgraded their alert to the highest red level in the north of Quintana Roo state late Tuesday, including Cancun, but said evacuations of some 27,000 tourists in the region were not necessary.
"Airports are operating normally," state governor Felix Gonzalez told a news conference.
A hurricane warning was in effect for part of the Yucatan coast, including the resort island of Cozumel, and the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio, said the US-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) in its latest advisory.
Paula, a small hurricane, had strengthened to a category two on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, packing winds of 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour, the NHC said.
"Some slight strengthening is possible today and Wednesday," it added.
Mexican authorities warned people to remain inside, particularly on the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Paula was around 85 miles (135 kilometers) southeast of Cozumel, and about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south southwest of the western tip of Cuba at 0000 GMT the NHC said.
The ninth hurricane of the June-through-November Atlantic season was forecast to veer northeast toward Cuba later in the week.
In Cuba, which was battered in the 2008 season by three major hurricanes, weather services forecast heavy rain in the west of the island for Wednesday.
Paula raised the troubling prospect of renewed flooding in already waterlogged Central America and Mexico, after weeks of devastation from recent heavy rains that sparked deadly mudslides.
The hurricane brought heavy rains to parts of Nicaragua and Honduras and was expected to dump another three to six inches (7.5 to 15 centimeters) of rain on the Yucatan and Cuba.
"In areas of mountainous terrain... these rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the NHC warned.
Luis Carlos Rodriguez, head of Quintana Roo's civil defense department, said high pressure in the Gulf of Mexico was worsening the weather over the Yucatan.
"This system is bringing a considerable amount of water," he told AFP.
Flooding and landslides have killed more than 400 people in Central America and Mexico, left tens of thousands homeless and caused billions of dollars in damage in recent months.
Mexico has suffered its worst rainy season on record, with a series of tropical storms and hurricanes which drenched large swathes of the country.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had predicted an especially stormy 2010, with 14 to 23 named storms for this season, including eight to 14 hurricanes.
On average, there are 11 named storms, six of which become hurricanes.
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Hurricane Paula roils toward Mexico's Yucatan coast
Miami (AFP) Oct 12, 2010
US forecasters said potent storm system Paula had developed into a hurricane Tuesday, with additional strengthening expected over the next 24 hours as it approaches Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The Miami-based US National Hurricane Center said Paula was centered around 230 miles (370 kilometers) southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour f ... read more
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