Hurricane Earl was downgraded to a tropical storm after soaking parts of Central America and southern Mexico with heavy rain and gusty winds early Thursday, according to forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Earl, the fifth named storm of the 2016 season, battered homes and cars, disrupting transportation and forcing hundreds of people into shelters as it moved through Belize and Guatemala toward southeastern Mexico on Thursday.
Some flights from Mexico City to the Mexican seaside resort of Chetumal were canceled because of Earl. "The wind was very, very strong, we saw the air conditioners on the roof coming apart." said Philip Gray, a church member from Birmingham, Alabama, staying in Belize City.
Earl officially became a hurricane on Wednesday afternoon as it approached the coast of Mexico in the southern part of the Yucatan Peninsula with winds reaching 75 mph, forecasters say. After making landfall on the coast of Belize, near the city of Chetumal in southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo, it weakened back to tropical storm status with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, forcasters said. It then moved across Guatemala heading back out over water in the Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
"Earl is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 8 to 12 inches over portions of Belize, Guatemala, and the Mexican states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Veracruz through Friday morning, the NHC said. "Isolated maximum amounts of 18 inches are possible in Belize, northern Guatemala and the central part of the Mexican state of Chiapas. These rains could result in life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."
Earl is expected to continue weakening, degenerating into a tropical depression later on Friday.
During its passage through the Caribbean Earl previously battered the Dominican Republic from Sunday to Monday. At least six people were killed after winds knocked down power lines onto a bus in Nagua, according to the Associated Press.
( Information from Reuters was used in this report)