Tropical Storm Matthew strengthens off coast of Nicaragua
The storm could disrupt the coffee harvest due to begin early next month in major regional exporters Honduras and Guatemala.
Fri, Sep 24 2010 at 7:00 AM
HARVEST: Nicaragua has already slashed its estimate for the coffee season after months of heavy rains battered crops and roads. (Photo: Jaime Puebla/AP)
MEXICO CITY - Tropical Storm Matthew strengthened over the western Caribbean on Friday and was expected to hit Nicaragua and Honduras later in the day, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, could disrupt the coffee harvest due to begin early next month in major regional exporters Honduras and Guatemala.
Nicaragua has already slashed its estimate for the 2010/2011 season after months of heavy rains battered crops and roads.
"The center of Matthew is expected to be near or over northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras late today," the Miami-based hurricane center said in a 5 a.m. advisory.
Matthew is forecast to strengthen during the next 48 hours and "could become a hurricane late today," it said. It is expected to produce large and dangerous waves and some coastal flooding.
Matthew, the 13th named storm of the Atlantic season, was located 240 miles east of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
It was moving west, but was expected to shift north toward the Yucatan Peninsula and lose force before reaching the Gulf of Mexico, where most of Mexico's oil wells are located.
The storm is expected to dump 6 to 10 inches of rain on parts of Nicaragua and Honduras, the hurricane center said, which "may produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."
A hurricane warning was in effect from Puerto Cabezas to Limon, Honduras, a tropical storm watch from Limon to the Honduras-Guatemala border, and a hurricane watch for the coast of Belize, the hurricane center said.
Mexico is still recovering from Hurricane Karl, which dumped heavy rains in the Gulf state of Veracruz over the past weekend, damaging sugar crops.
Over eastern Atlantic, tropical storm Lisa was churning 295 miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, but was expected to weaken over the weekend and posed no threat to land or energy assets.
(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; editing by Noah Barkin)
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