Storm still battering Nicaragua, Honduras
Michelle may threaten U.S.
From Herald Wire Services
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- A tropical storm that has killed at least eight people, left 19 missing and forced 25,000 others to flee their homes continued to batter the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras Wednesday night.
Forecasters warned that Tropical Storm Michelle could become a hurricane with 74-mph winds as early as this weekend and may eventually threaten the United States.
The storm has already triggered widespread flooding and evacuations
in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Flooding is so extensive
in Honduras that as
many as 30 villages have been cut off from the rest of the country.
Late Wednesday night, Michelle's center had moved into the Caribbean and was located 75 miles north of the coastal village of Cabo Gracias a Dios. It was drifting north at 6 mph.
Some computerized forecasts show the storm striking the United States, perhaps by this weekend, but others show it turning west and striking Mexico, said Jack Beven, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County.
Beven said the system's slow speed will let it gather strength once it reaches the Caribbean. He said there is nothing in the forecast that could speed up the system.
``It could develop quite a lot,'' he said.
The storm's high winds and heavy rains have taken a heavy toll in both Honduras and Nicaragua.
A 2-year-old boy drowned in central Honduras Wednesday as his father tried to carry him across a rain-swollen stream about 80 miles north of Tegucigalpa, the capital, bringing the number of drowning deaths Honduras to four since Sunday.
Another seven Hondurans were reported missing. Some 50,000 others reported flood damage in their homes, and more than 10,000 people were evacuated.
Four people were reported dead and 12 missing in neighboring Nicaragua, hundreds of homes were damaged by floodwaters and six bridges were washed out. More than 15,000 Nicaraguans were forced to flee their homes, authorities said Wednesday night.
Thousands of people were evacuated in the city of La Lima, 120 miles north of the Honduran capital, and rescue workers traveling through flooded streets in small boats were helping reach hundreds more trapped on the roofs of their homes by floodwaters as deep as six feet.
``I lost everything, but I saved my mother,'' said César Ramírez, who along with his mother spent two days clinging to the roof of their home.