Two hurricanes have hit Latin America within the span of a few hours, with Henriette charging ashore on Mexico's Baja California peninsula and Felix slamming into Central America. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports.
Hurricane Felix made landfall as a category five storm, with heavy rainfall and maximum sustained winds of 260 kilometers per hour. Weather forecasters said the storm had weakened after the eye came ashore, and said it would continue to lose strength during the next day or two.
Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm will cause heavy rains and possible flooding as it moves over mountainous areas.
"You have all this moisture all this tropical energy which is being released as the hurricane breaks up over the land area," said Feltgen. "So it creates this heavy rain event, where we expect up to two feet [60 centimeters of rain] or even slightly greater amounts in some of the higher terrain of the mountains."
The hurricane first hit land in remote, swampy areas of the Miskito Coast, and moved through villages further inland. Officials in Honduras and Nicaragua moved thousands of residents and tourists into shelters, and evacuated others from flood-prone areas ahead of the storm.
U.S. military officials said a Chinook helicopter was flown in to evacuate 19 American citizens from the Honduran island of Roatan on Monday. Military officials say a team has been in Belize since Hurricane Dean hit the area two weeks ago. It is assessing damage from the storm and helping organize rebuilding efforts.
Hurricane Dean also was rated a category five storm when it came ashore along the border of Mexico and Belize on the Yucatan peninsula. Meteorologist Feltgen said it is the first time two hurricanes of that strength have made landfall in the same season.
"Since our records began in the late 19th century, we have no record of two land-falling category five hurricanes in the same season," he said. "Nor do we have any record of the first two hurricanes of the same season developing into category five hurricanes."
Feltgen says it is impossible to predict if other hurricanes will develop in the Atlantic region in coming months, but he says forecasters expect storm activity this year to be above average.
In the Pacific Ocean, forecasters are tracking Hurricane Henriette which is moving north, near Mexico's western coast.