Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hurricane to Spare Mexican Resorts on Path to Cuba

Hurricane to Spare Mexican Resorts on Path to Cuba
October 13, 2010, 5:51 AM EDT
By Brian K. Sullivan and Randall Hackley

(Adds latest location of hurricane off Cozumel, wind speeds, from second

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Paula's winds probably won't be enough
to damage Mexico's hotels and beach resorts as the storm skirts past the
east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on a path toward western Cuba, a
risk analyst said.

Paula's strongest sustained winds were 100 miles (160 kilometers) per
hour, according to a National Hurricane Center website advisory at 5
a.m. Miami time. The storm is a "small" Category 2 hurricane on the
five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the center said.

"There should be little or no damage, apart from window damage, to
engineered structures in this region -- i.e., modern hotels in the
popular tourist resorts of Cozumel and Cancun," Tim Doggett, principal
scientist at AIR Worldwide Corp. in Boston, said in an e-mailed
statement. AIR is a risk modeler for the insurance industry.

The official track shows the storm, 60 miles east-northeast of Cozumel,
Mexico, is passing northward at 9 mph off the Yucatan's east coast. It
then is expected to turn north- northeastward into the Yucatan Channel
and come ashore in western Cuba later this week.

"The people there are going to have to prepare for it to come ashore,"
Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground Inc. in Ann Arbor,
Michigan, said yesterday. "They are in the cone of uncertainty."

The storm won't be a threat to U.S. oil installations in the Gulf of
Mexico, according to Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist for
Planalytics Inc in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Heavy Rain

The main impact may be heavy rain rather than damaging winds as Paula, a
small storm, stays out at sea. The storm's hurricane-force winds of at
least 74 mph extend out as much as 15 miles, and its tropical
storm-force winds of at least 39 mph reach 60 miles from the eye.

"It is pretty tiny," Masters said. "And that small size is going to make
it vulnerable to rapid decay."

Paula is the ninth hurricane and the 16th named storm, with winds of at
least 39 mph, to form in the Atlantic season. The average season has 11
named storms.

"We don't often make it up to the letter P in the alphabet and it is
only October," Masters said. "On average we can expect one more or two
more named storms. It is shaping up to being one of the busiest seasons
of all time."

Drenching Storms

Last month, Tropical Storm Matthew drenched Honduras, Guatemala and
southern Mexico. Tropical Storm Karl plowed across the Yucatan on Sept.
15 after coming ashore south of Cancun, then strengthened into a
hurricane over the gulf before striking mainland Mexico near Veracruz.
Cancun will be the site of two weeks of United Nations climate talks
starting Nov. 29.

Earlier this season, Hurricane Alex struck the area, as did Tropical
Storm Agatha, which came in off the Pacific. At least 300 people have
died from this year's storms, according to reports from several Central
American nations.

Paula may produce as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain over
western and central Cuba with lesser amounts over the Yucatan, according
to the advisory.

"These rainfall amounts could cause life-threatening flash floods and
mudslides," the center said.

Rouiller said after Paula dissipates models suggest another storm may
form next week south of Jamaica.

--With assistance from Alex Morales in London and Blake Schmidt in
Granada, Nicaragua.

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