Hurricane Lisa bore down on Belize on Wednesday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported in a bulletin, predicting it will later move across the jungles of northern Guatemala and southeastern Mexico.
Weather models show Lisa’s heavy rainfall and powerful winds will likely target tourist destinations in Belize,
Guatemala and Mexico’s Caribbean-facing Yucatan Peninsula, dotted by beach resorts, pristine coral reefs and Mayan ruins.
The eye of Lisa, now at Category 1 strength, is currently located about 8 km south of Belize City, the tiny Caribbean country’s commercial hub, as it churns westward.
The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 137 kph, the Miami-based NHC said in its latest report.
Palm trees buckled as winds picked up in the Caribbean port city, as residents reported water and power outages plus some flooding.
The NHC added that Lisa was moving westward at a speed of 19 kph and that a powerful storm surge could lift tides some one to two meters above normal levels.
The Belize government’s emergency services announced on Wednesday afternoon a state of emergency including a curfew across two districts covering large swathes of its Caribbean coast through Thursday.
Officials advised people living in vulnerable areas to move to shelters, adding that border crossings, ports and airports were also ordered closed.
President Alejandro Giammattei of neighboring Guatemala told a news conference food rations were being sent to vulnerable areas.
Though Lisa was expected to weaken when it entered Belize, Giammattei said damage was expected in Guatemala’s Maya biosphere reserve, a stretch of protected rainforest home to rich fauna and many ancient cities under excavation.
Guatemala’s disaster agency Conred said earlier that floods had hit Melchor de Menchos, the main border crossing with Belize, affecting 95 people and inflicting “moderate damage” on 19 homes.
Honduras fire chief Wilmer Guerrero told Reuters Lisa had not caused damage when it passed over Honduras’ Bay Islands, while its largest island, Roatan, suspended a state of emergency there.
The NHC also warned of hurricane conditions between the Mexican border city of Chetumal and Costa Maya, one of the country’s most popular cruise ports, though its tropical storm warning did not stretch as far north to the popular beach resort of Tulum.
Mexico’s national meteorological service forecast heavy rains and thunderstorms over parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, with strong winds likely to batter Quintana Roo, home to popular tourist spots Cancun and Cozumel.