Tropical Storm Matthew formed over the western Caribbean Thursday and was expected to hit Central America as early as Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph [72 kph], could disrupt the coffee harvest due to begin early next month in major regional exporters Honduras and Guatemala.
Nicaragua has already slashed its estimate for the 2010/2011 season after months of heavy rains battered crops and roads.
Models of the storm predict it will reach hurricane strength late Friday and then lose force over the weekend before reaching the Gulf of Mexico, where most of Mexico’s oil wells are located.
Forecasts also show that the storm could turn north toward the Yucatan Peninsula as it weakens.
“The center of Matthew is expected to be near the Nicaragua/Honduras border late Friday,” the Miami-based hurricane center said in its 11 p.m. advisory.
Matthew, the 13th named storm of the Atlantic season, was located about 335 miles [536 kms] east of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. Forecasters expect it to peak in power as a Category 1 hurricane and begin to dissipate over the weekend.
Mexico is still recovering from Hurricane Karl, which dumped heavy rains in the Gulf state of Veracruz over the past weekend, damaging sugar crops.
On the other side of the Atlantic, another system, Lisa, regained tropical storm strength around 305 miles [488 kms] west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, but was moving slowly and posed no threat to land or energy assets.
(Reporting by Jason Lange and Patrick Rucker; editing by Peter Cooney and Mohammad Zargham)
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