Hurricane Ida strengthened to a Category 2 storm yesterday as it churned in the Caribbean with winds of 160 km/h.
By late morning, the storm was about 100 kilometres offshore from Cancun, Mexico, and was moving north toward the Gulf of Mexico, where officials issued a hurricane watch for coastal Louisiana and Mississippi.
Rain and strong winds from Ida’s outer bands were reported in Cancun, where tour operators and fishermen pulled their boats out of the water.
However, the resort city’s airport was still open and there were no plans to close it, according to airport spokesman Eduardo Rivadeneira.
Mexico issued a hurricane warning for parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, from Playa del Carmen to Cabo Catoche, including Cancun and the nearby island of Cozumel. That means hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours.
Officials said the worst of the storm would likely hit Cancun around midday. They advised residents to stay inside and avoid putting their trash out on the streets.
A tropical storm warning was in place for the western tip of Cuba, with heavy rains expected.
In El Salvador, Interior Minister Humberto Centeno reported at least 40 people have died from flooding following three days of heavy rains that may be indirectly tied to Ida. The Reuters news agency later reported a higher death toll of 54.
Dave Roberts, a U.S. navy hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, said Ida’s presence in the Caribbean may have played a role in drawing a Pacific low pressure system toward El Salvador, causing those rains.
However, he said, “if there were deaths associated with this rainfall amount in El Salvador, I would not link it to Ida.”
Hurricane Ida passed through El Salvador’s neighbour Nicaragua on Thursday, damaging or destroying about 500 homes, as well as roads, bridges and public buildings.