Hurricane Felix Barrels Into Nicaragua

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(Related: "2007 Hurricane Season Begins, Will Be Busy, Forecasters Say" [June 1, 2007].)

Last month powerful Hurricane Dean came ashore on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Dean made landfall on August 21 with winds of 165 miles (265 kilometers) an hour.

The 2007 season is thought to be the first time that two Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the same season since record keeping started in the late 19th century.

Felix became a Category 5 hurricane shortly before its eye came ashore at about 8 a.m. eastern time.

Category 5 hurricanes have the potential to do catastrophic damage on land. The winds can completely level houses, and the huge pounding waves can smash buildings on or near the shore.

Felix is expected to weaken rapidly as it moves westward across the mountains of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. It should eventually dissipate late this week somewhere over Mexico.

The storm will likely dissipate quickly over this terrain, but will still dump at least 5 to 10 inches (12.7 to 25.4 centimeters) of rain in Nicaragua and Honduras, the National Hurricane Center's Willis said.

In some places, rainfall could be as much as 20 inches (50.8 centimeters).

"That could produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," he said.

Rapid Growth

Felix underwent an astonishingly rapid intensification as it moved over the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea Saturday and Sunday.

The tempest began on August 31 as a tropical depression just east of the Caribbean.

By Sunday night—only 51 hours later—the hurricane had reached Category 5 status (find out how hurricanes work).

A National Hurricane Center advisory issued at 8 p.m eastern time on Sunday noted that a hurricane-hunter aircraft had to abort its data-gathering mission because of the unusually intense and dangerous turbulence it encountered inside the storm.

(Related: "Hurricane Hunter Gets an Insider's View of Katrina" [September 16, 2005].)

The aircraft also ran into hail, another indication of an extremely intense hurricane.

And even as Felix started its trek across Central America, another hurricane was threatening Mexico's west coast.

As of 8 a.m. eastern time on Tuesday, Hurricane Henriette was in the Pacific Ocean just off the tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. The storm is expected to move inland late today or early Wednesday.

Henriette's top winds reach about 75 miles (121 kilometers) an hour, making it a Category 1 hurricane. But the National Hurricane Center's forecast for Henriette notes that the storm is over warm water and could gain more strength before it comes ashore.

"We could see some effect over the southwestern United States after it moves over the Gulf of California," Willis said. "Some of the moisture from the storm could spread over the Southwest."

Meteorologists also are watching an area of disturbed weather in the Atlantic about 365 miles (587 kilometers) east-southeast of Savannah, Georgia.

That system has the potential to become the Atlantic's seventh named tropical storm.

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