MEXICO CITY – Hurricane Julia hit Nicaragua's central Caribbean coast and dumped torrential rains across Central America before reemerging over the Pacific as a tropical storm. It was forecast to travel parallel to the coasts of El Salvador and Guatemala on Monday.
Julia hit Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), though its winds had dipped to tropical storm force of 40 mph (65 kph) by Sunday night as it moved past Nicaragua.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Julia was centered about 95 miles (155 kilometers) southeast of San Salvador, El Salvador and was moving west at 15 mph (24 kph).
It said life-threatening flash floods and mudslides were possible across Central America and southern Mexico through Tuesday, with the storm expected to bring as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain in isolated areas.
Colombia's national disaster agency reported Sunday that Julia blew the roofs off several houses and knocked over trees as it blasted past San Andres Island east of Nicaragua. There were no immediate reports of fatalities
In Nicaragua, Vice President Rosario Murillo told TN8 television that there had been no reports of deaths so far, but power and communications were cut to some areas. She said that 9,500 people had been evacuated to shelters.
Local news media showed images of trees toppled across roads and local flooding.
Heavy rains and evacuations were also reported in Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica, where some highways were closed due to the downpours.
Guillermo González, director of Nicaragua’s Disaster Response System, told official media that people at high risk had been evacuated from coastal areas by noon Saturday. The army said it delivered humanitarian supplies to Bluefields and Laguna de Perlas for distribution to 118 temporary shelters.
The storm was forecast to emerge over the Pacific and skirt the coasts of El Salvador and Guatemala, a region already saturated by weeks of heavy rains. It was expected to dissipate by Monday night.
In Guatemala, storms since early May had already caused caused at least 49 confirmed deaths, with six people missing. Roads and hundreds of homes have been damaged, Guatemalan officials say.
In El Salvador, where 19 people have died this rainy season, the worst rainfall was expected Monday and Tuesday, said Fernando López, the minister of environmental and natural resources. Officials said they had opened 61 shelters with the capacity to house more than 3,000 people.