Tropical Storm Season Has Begun: Central America Feels The Effects

As reported By Filadelfo Aleman on AP.Google.com.

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Tropical Storm Alma slammed into Nicaragua’s coast Thursday as the first such storm of the eastern Pacific season, forcing tens of thousand of people to evacuate and flooding low-lying areas, before pushing into neighboring Honduras.

The National Hurricane Center said Alma was the first tropical storm in the available records to make landfall on Central America’s Pacific coast. Such storms normally make landfall farther west, along Mexico’s Pacific coast. Tropical storms often hit Central America’s Atlantic coast.

Alma reached land near the Nicaraguan colonial city of Leon, whose Mayor, Transito Tellez, said houses had been destroyed and power knocked out by the storm. Rescue personnel described houses whose roofs had been blow off, and homes that had been crushed by fallen trees.

The storm forced the evacuation of as many as 25,000 people in the area, and telephone service was also knocked out, said Civil Defense Director Mario Perez Cassar.

“The wind whipped up the sand, and it lashed your face like sandpaper,” said Erasmo Lopez, a fisherman in the coastal hamlet of Poneloya, near where Alma made landfall. “The trees were shaking like crazy, cars were shuddering, and you couldn’t even see in front of you.”

Nicaragua’s Radio Ya reported that a 30-year-old man was electrocuted in Trasbayo, 40 miles (60 kilometers) southeast of Managua, after a power line snapped under high winds.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Alma was weakening as it headed inland. By late Thursday it had maximum sustained winds of around 45 mph (75 kph) as it moved over southern Honduras at a speed of 9 mph (15 kph).

It was expected to weaken to a tropical depression before reaching Guatemala or Belize late Friday or Saturday.

The fast-growing storm took forecasters and many in Central America by surprise. Residents scrambled to prepare for the storm before it hit.

People crowded Managua supermarkets to buy food, water, candles and batteries, and schools canceled classes and were on standby to become temporary shelters. Many flights were also grounded.

The storm wrapped the Costa Rican capital of San Jose in a dense fog, slowing traffic to a crawl and causing dozens of accidents.

Along the coast, some 200 families were evacuated to more than 160 storm shelters set up after Alma dumped rain over the country for 24 hours. Landslides blocked a few highways.

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