TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduran emergency officials urged coastal residents to evacuate low-lying areas and Mexico issued a hurricane warning as Paula strengthened into a powerful storm Tuesday and battered the Caribbean coast with strong winds and rain.
Paula formed Monday off the coast of Honduras and quickly intensified into a hurricane early Tuesday, said the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.
It had winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and was centered about 230 miles (370 kilometers) south-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico.
Paula was expected to dump from 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of Honduras, northern Belize, eastern portions of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and parts of western and central Cuba.
The government of Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the country's Caribbean coast from Punta Gruesa north to Cabo Catoche, including the island of Cozumel. Warnings are issued when hurricane conditions are almost certain to occur.
A tropical storm warning was issued for Limon eastward toward the border with Nicaragua.
Forecasters warned of possible flooding and landslides and suggested residents avoid fishing trips or water sports.
Forecasters said the storm would produce heavy rains that could cause flash floods and mudslides, especially in the mountains of Nicaragua and Honduras. It said isolated, mountainous areas in Honduras could get as many as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain.
Coastal flooding from heavy waves was also expected along the eastern coast of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula and the Bay Islands of Honduras.