MEXICO CITY — Tropical Storm Julia strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane Saturday night, US forecasters said.
The National Hurricane Center upgraded the tropical cyclone to hurricane status shortly after 7 p.m. as the storm swirled about 200 miles northeast of Nicaragua.
The storm passed through San Andres Island, Colombia, and headed for Nicaragua, the center said. It was moving west at 17 mph, it said.
Maximum sustained winds were estimated at 75 mph Saturday, the center said.
In a forecast discussion Saturday, the center said the hurricane could reach the coast of Nicaragua overnight and then move across the country.”
Federal forecasters said life-threatening flash floods and mudslides were possible in Nicaragua and southern Mexico.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro issued a “maximum warning” on the islands and asked hotels to prepare space to protect the vulnerable population. San Andres officials imposed a curfew for residents at 6 a.m. Saturday to restrict people on the streets. Air operations to the islands were suspended.
Similar precautions were taken in the central part of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, where authorities issued a warning to all types of ships to seek a safe haven.
Nicaraguan soldiers began preparing to evacuate residents from islands and cays around the town of Sandy Bay Sirpi. The military said it has delivered humanitarian supplies to the municipalities of Bluefields and Laguna de Perlas for distribution to 118 temporary shelters.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the Colombian islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, and Nicaragua from Laguna de Perlas to Puerto Cabezas, according to the Hurricane Center.
A bigger threat than Julia’s winds were 4- to 10-inch rains — up to 15 inches in remote areas — the storm was expected to dump over Central America.
“This rainfall could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides this weekend,” the National Hurricane Center said.
The remnants of the storm were expected to sweep across Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and southern Mexico, a region already saturated by weeks of heavy rainfall.
It is the fifth hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic tropical cyclone season.