BELMOPAN, Belize — Tropical Storm Earl (formerly Hurricane Earl) pushed over Mexico's southern Gulf coast early Friday after drenching Belize and northern Guatemala.
Earlier forecasts had Earl weakening into a tropical depression overnight but new predictions late Thursday night had it maintaining its strength as a weak tropical storm through most of Friday.Mexico's government issued a tropical storm warning for its southern Gulf coast from Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche westward to Laguna Verde, Veracruz.Earl slammed into the coast of the Caribbean nation of Belize early Thursday morning with winds of 80 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.The Center said the storm could leave eight to 12 inches of rain over parts of Belize, Guatemala and southern Mexico. Isolated areas could receive as much as 18 inches, causing flooding and mudslides.Much of Belize was without electricity on Thursday as residents began assessing the damage. Around the capital, some roofs were torn off, power lines were down and trees were uprooted.The country's emergency management agency issued a statement declaring the "all clear" on the storm, but warned people near rivers to head to higher ground. It said all of the country's dams were at flood stage.The statement said there was major infrastructure damage in the offshore cayes, as well as in Belize City and Belmopan. It expected the international airport in Belize City to reopen Thursday.Late Thursday night, Earl was centered about 40 miles south-southeast of Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico and was moving west-northwest at 10 mph. It has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.Authorities in the Mexican coastal state of Quintana Roo reported some evacuations. Some people evacuated low-lying coastal areas in nearby Guatemala.The hurricane center said heavy rains would be a danger in southern Mexico through Saturday as Earl crosses the Yucatan Peninsula into the states of Tabasco and Veracruz.In Belize, the government opened storm shelters and used radio and television broadcasts to urge residents of low-lying areas to move to higher ground. Officials also ordered the international airport in Belize City to close.
PATRICK E. JONES