Hurricane Julia Hits Nicaragua With Torrential Rainfall

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Hurricane Julia hit Nicaragua's central Caribbean coast on Sunday after lashing Colombia's San Andres island, and a weakened storm was expected to emerge over the Pacific.

Julia hit as a Category 1 hurricane early Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), though its winds had dipped to 75 mph (120 kph) a few hours later as it pushed across Nicaragua with heavy rains.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Julia was centered about 115 miles (190 kilometers) east of Managua, the capital, and was moving west at 16 mph (26 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.

At the storm approached San Andres Island east of Nicaragua, Colombian President Gustavo Petro declared a "maximum alert" there as well as Providencia island to the north and asked hotels to prepare space to shelter the vulnerable population. Officials on San Andres imposed a curfew to limit people in the streets. Flights to the islands were suspended.

There were no early reports on Julia's impact on San Andres.

In Nicaragua, authorities alerted all types of vessels to seek safe harbor.

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.

In Bluefields, however, life appeared little changed Saturday night, and people expressed reluctance to leave their homes.

The storm was forecast to sweep across Nicaragua and then emerge over the Pacific and skirt the coasts of El Salvador and Guatemala, a region already saturated by weeks of heavy rains.

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.