Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tropical storm Alma forms north of Costa Rica

Tropical Storm Alma lashed the coast of Central America with heavy rains on Thursday after becoming the first such storm of the eastern Pacific season.

Authorities issued a tropical storm warning from Costa Rica to El Salvador.

Costa Rican authorities evacuated low-lying areas and set up more than 160 storm shelters after Alma dumped rain over the country for 24 hours. A few highways were blocked by landslides.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) and was expected to strengthen before hitting Nicaragua's northwest corner later Thursday. The storm was moving north at 6 mph (9 kph).

The center predicted it would plow through the southern border region of El Salvador and Honduras early Friday.

The greatest threat from this system will be life-threatening floods and mud slides. Nearly 15 inches of rain is forecast over portions of Central America with isolated higher totals of 20 inches or more.

The eastern Pacific hurricane season began May 15.

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