San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hurricane Richard Deflates to Tropical Depression after Hitting Belize

Hurricane Richard weakened to tropical depression status Monday after making landfall in Belize and crossing over northern Guatemala, the U.S. National Hurricane Center, or NHC, said.

The storm, which has maximum sustained winds of 55 kph (35 mph), was located about 250 kilometers (155 miles) south-southeast of Campeche, Mexico, at 1200 GMT, the NHC said.

Richard is moving toward the west-northwest at about 15 kph (9 mph) and is forecast to maintain this motion for the next 24 hours.

The NHC expects Richard to cross the Yucatan Peninsula and enter the southern Gulf of Mexico early Tuesday.

Richard made landfall in Belize on Sunday night about 35 kilometers (20 miles) south-southwest of Belize City.

Maximum sustained winds at landfall were estimated at 150 kph (90 mph), making Richard a Category 1 hurricane, the NHC said.

According to The Associated Press, Richard made landfall as a hurricane Sunday night, knocking down thousands of trees and power lines, causing most of the country to lose power. Thousands of homes lost their roofs or suffered severe damage. Overall damage is estimated in the millions of dollars. No deaths have been reported as 10,000 took shelter at refuges.

Belize City was devastated by Hurricane Hattie in 1961, prompting officials to move the capital inland to Belmopan. But Belize City is still the nation’s largest population center, with about 100,000 inhabitants – a third of the country’s population.

Earlier, Richard dumped heavy rains on Honduras’ Caribbean coast and the Bay Islands, including Roatan, which is popular with tourists and divers.

A total of 17 tropical storms have formed during the Atlantic season, with 10 of them, including Richard, becoming hurricanes.

Of the 10 hurricanes that have formed, four reached Category 4 strength on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

The revised forecast issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, calls for 14 to 20 storms to form this season, with eight to 12 becoming hurricanes that could affect the United States, the Caribbean, Central America and the Gulf of Mexico.

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