Hurricane Julia sweeps across Central America, could bring heavy rain and flooding
Hurricane Julia made inroads on Nicaragua’s central Caribbean coast late Saturday after striking the Colombian island of San Andres in a nearby pass, shortly after strengthening from a tropical storm in the afternoon. Heavy rains could also hit southern Mexico early next week, forecasters said.
Julia has been upgradedto a hurricane Saturday night with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, the US National Hurricane Center reported. A storm is defined as a hurricane when its maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Late Saturday night, the storm was concentrated about 65 miles west of San Andres Island in Colombia and 80 miles northeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua. It was moving west at 16 miles per hour.
There were no early reports of how the storm affected San Andres. The NCH said in an advisory that Julia could bring “life-threatening flash floods and mudslides from heavy rains” to several Central American countries and southern Mexico.
Julia was due to land in Nicaragua in the early hours of Sunday morning, the NHC predicted. It would move via Nicaragua on Sunday and then reach the Pacific coasts of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala on Monday, the NHC said. It’s a region already saturated by weeks of torrential rains.
The NCH reported Julia could tip anywhere between 5 and 15 inches of rain in Nicaragua. The rest of Central America could see anywhere from 4 to 12 inches.
Mexico’s Tehuantepec Isthmus could receive between 2 and 6 inches of rain early next week, the NHC said, and flash flooding is a possibility.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro had declared a “maximum alert” on the islands of San Andres and Providencia in the north and asked hotels to make room to accommodate the population at risk. San Andres officials imposed a 6 a.m. curfew on residents Saturday to limit people on the streets. Flight operations to the islands have been suspended.
Nicaraguan authorities issued a warning for all types of vessels to seek safe harbor as the hurricane followed a general path toward Bluefields and Laguna de Perlas.
Guillermo González, director of Nicaragua’s civil protection system, told official media that high-risk people had been evacuated from the coastal areas by Saturday noon. The army said it was delivering humanitarian supplies to Bluefields and Laguna de Perlas for distribution to 118 emergency shelters.
However, life appeared to have changed little in Bluefields on Saturday night, with people expressing a reluctance to leave their homes.
In Guatemala, officials said Julia could drench 10 departments in the east, center and west of the country – an area hardest hit by this rainy season and where the poorest people are concentrated.
From May to September, storms have caused 49 confirmed deaths and six people are missing. According to Guatemalan officials, roads and hundreds of homes were damaged.
In El Salvador, where 19 people have died this rainy season, the worst rains are expected on Monday and Tuesday, said Fernando López, the environment and natural resources minister. Officials said they opened 61 shelters with a capacity of more than 3,000 people.