Worried travelers and those living on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula were waiting and watching Hurricane Rina on Tuesday after the storm intensified to a Category 2 and appeared poised to make a near-direct hit on the resort town of Cancun later this week.
MIAMI (CNN) -- Worried travelers and those living on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula were waiting and watching Hurricane Rina on Tuesday after the storm intensified to a Category 2 and appeared poised to make a near-direct hit on the resort town of Cancun later this week.
Rina's maximum sustained winds were near 100 mph Tuesday morning, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center. "Additional strengthening is forecast during the next day or so and Rina could become a major hurricane by tonight or early Wednesday," forecasters said.
Forecast models show Rina strengthening into a major, or Category 3, hurricane before approaching the Yucatan. The projected path shows Rina back at Category 2 intensity when it takes aim at Cancun on Thursday.
Those headed for Cancun posted on some online travel forums seeking advice.
"I don't mind staying in the hotel as long as they don't evacuate us" and the power stays on, one person, who is planning to travel to Cancun on Saturday, wrote on tripadvisor.com.
"So how bad does the weather need to get before they cancel a flight?" another person wrote on a Cancun forum. "We're wiling to chance it."
There was no information regarding flight cancellations as of Tuesday morning.
The developments came as the search continued for more than two dozen missing storm evacuees from Nicaragua.
A navy boat ferrying people between the Miskito Cays and Puerto Cabezas, on Nicaragua's eastern coast, was reported missing on Sunday, according to Vice Adm. Roger Gonzalez of the Nicaraguan navy. Twenty-seven people were on board, he said.
As of 8 a.m. ET, the center of Rina was about 215 miles (345 kilometers) southwest of Grand Cayman and about 305 miles (490 kilometers) east-southeast of Chetumal, Mexico. It was meandering west-northwest at near 3 mph (6 kph), but was expected to gradually turn northeast and speed up over the next two days, forecasters said. "On the forecast track, the center of Rina will approach the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula by Thursday morning."
A hurricane watch was in effect for the east coast of the peninsula, from north of Punta Gruesa to Cancun. A tropical storm watch is in effect from Chetumal to Punta Gruesa. The watches mean that hurricane or tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
Tropical storm conditions, including winds of at least 39 mph, are possible in the watch areas by late Wednesday, the Hurricane Center said. Hurricane conditions, including winds of at least 74 mph, are possible by early Thursday.
"It is too early to speculate what, if any effects Rina will have on the U.S., but after the storm makes landfall in the Yucatan, the combination of land interaction and high shear that is forecast into the Gulf of Mexico is expected to weaken Rina as it begins to turn toward the northeast toward Cuba, or perhaps South Florida or the Bahamas," said CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.
The storm is expected to dump a total of 2 to 4 inches of rain over the Cayman Islands.
Flood-soaked Central America also braced for more rain as Rina lumbered along.
In Nicaragua and Honduras, where flooding and mudslides have affected thousands and killed dozens of people, authorities issued alerts warning residents that more precipitation could be on the way.
October marks the end of the rainy season in the region and is when the area is most susceptible to flooding because the ground is already saturated, CNN International weather anchor Mari Ramos said.
Heavy rains have hit Honduras for several weeks, killing at least 29 people, according to government statistics.
In Guatemala, 39 people have been killed and thousands remain at risk, the state-run AGN news agency reported.
Civil protection officials in El Salvador reported 34 rain-related deaths. Nicaragua has reported at least 12 deaths.
Journalist Samantha Lugo contributed to this report.
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