System growing off Central America could hit US as hurricane

A tropical depression developing off the coast of Nicaragua is expected to dump heavy rains on parts of Central America before strengthening into a hurricane that could touch Mexico and eventually reach the U.S. mainland, forecasters and officials said.

Mexico's government issued a hurricane watch from Punta Herrero to Cabo Catoche in the state of Quintana Roo with the storm expected to reach the resort-dotted stretch of coast late Friday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

The long-term forecast showed the storm reaching the U.S. Gulf coast as a hurricane by Sunday.

The tropical depression had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and was located about 95 miles (155 kilometers) south-southeast of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua late Wednesday night. It was moving northwest at 6 mph (9 kph), the hurricane center said.

The center said 15 to 20 inches (38 to 50 centimeters) of rain were expected across parts of Nicaragua, with strong and possibly dangerous rains also likely in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. The storm was projected to cross into the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Friday.