Watch CBSN Live

Hurricane Paula Lashes Honduras, Nears Yucatan

Hurricane Paula smashed homes and forced schools to close in Honduras on Tuesday as it headed toward Mexico's resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula.

Hurricane Paula has strengthened into a Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 100 miles per hour off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

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.

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

CBS News 2010 Storm Tracker

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

The Hurricane Center said the storm was likely to gain force, though it was not expected to become a major hurricane.

Paula was expected to dump from 3 to 6 inches of 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 many as 10 inches of rain.

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

The Cuban weather institute's Forecast Center says its watching Paula's movements closely, reports CBS News' Portia Siegelbaum.

No evacuations or other civil defense preparations have been announced, but Cuba normally takes measures to remove people and livestock from areas where flooding can be expected.
Three consecutive hurricanes in 2008 caused some $10 billion in damages across the island and flattened the Isle of Youth.