Hurricane Rina closes in on Mexican beach resorts

Hurricane Rina is threatening Cancun and other beach resorts on the Yucatan Peninsula with heavy wind and rain.

Weather Underground/AP
This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday afternoon shows Hurricane Rina in the Caribbean Sea. The storm will likely strengthen further before hitting Cancun in a couple of days.

Hurricane Rina closed in on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula on Tuesday, threatening beach resorts like Cancun with heavy rain as it moves away from soaked coffee and sugar-growing parts of Central America.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Rina is expected to strengthen into a major hurricane, with winds speeds of at least 111 miles per hour, on Tuesday night before making landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula early on Thursday after grazing Belize, both of them home to beach getaways.

Authorities have issued a hurricane watch for the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula from north of Punta Gruesa to Cancun, and a storm warning from Chetumal to Punta Gruesa.

Belize also issued a tropical storm watch along its coastline from Belize City northwards.

Rina, the sixth hurricane in the Atlantic this year, is not expected to threaten Mexico's oil-producing region in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rina, currently a Category Two hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, was located 280 miles east southeast of Chetumal, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, the forecasters said.

"Strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours,'' the Miami-based hurricane center said. "And Rina is expected to become a major hurricane by tonight.''

A major hurricane is Category 3 or higher.

Rina is expected to produce 8 to 16 inches of rainfall over the eastern Yucatan peninsula from Wednesday morning, the hurricane center said.

A storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 5 to 7 feet above normal tide levels on the coastline affected, it added.

Honduras, Central America's largest coffee producer, had its coast brushed by the storm but coffee-growing areas were largely spared from more rains after major downpours last week ravaged roads and farms before the harvesting season.

On Monday, skies were clear in Guatemala -- the region's No. 2 coffee grower -- and in El Salvador, also a producer of high-quality arabica beans.

Farmers are still assessing damage from the earlier rains but national coffee associations say that infrastructure damage will be the biggest challenge.

On Monday, Arabica coffee trading on ICE Futures U.S. got a boost from concerns about Rina after two weeks of rain that killed around 100 people in Central America.

(Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Editing by Eric Beech)

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