Earl downgraded to tropical storm after drenching Belize

BELIZE CITY, Belize, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Hurricane Earl was downgraded to a tropical storm shortly after it made landfall Thursday in Belize, bringing maximum sustained winds up to 50 mph and up to a foot of rain.

The storm, once centered near Belize City, was moving west about 12 mph on Thursday afternoon. It is expected to continue to weaken as it moves across high terrain into northern Guatemala and southeastern Mexico into Friday. The storm is forecasted to weaken into a tropical depression by Thursday night.

The storm is expected to bring up to 12 inches of rain in areas that include Belize, Guatemala and parts of Mexico. Isolated maximum rainfall amounts of 18 inches may happen in some areas, possibly bringing deadly flooding or landslides, the National Hurricane Center said.

“Earl is already well inland over northern Guatemala, and although visible satellite images still show a vigorous circulation, the convection is rapidly decreasing,” the National Hurricane Center said at 10 a.m.

Shortly after the storm made landfall early Thursday, its maximum sustained winds were about 65 mph.

Earl is the first hurricane to make landfall in Belize since 2010. Hurricane warnings were posted for areas near and around the small country, including Chetumal, Mexico, located south of the Belize-Guatemala border. The warnings will likely be dropped later Thursday.

Residents of Belize were advised to avoid the coastal areas and to seek shelter. Many were without power early Thursday. There were no immediate reports of damages or injuries.

Earlier this weak, the storm crossed the Dominican Republic, killing six people when power lines fell on a bus.

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