Central America Storm Fades, Mudslides Feared
Country: EL SALVADOR
Author: Alberto Barrera
Adrian had killed two people in a mudslide before making landfall early Friday morning in El Salvador where 23,000 evacuees took refuge in emergency shelters. It was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm and later to a tropical depression.
The storm was dissipating as it moved over the Honduran mountains, but heavy rain was forecast to continue for another 24 hours, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
"Adrian still poses the threat for more torrential rainfall which will likely produce flash flooding and potentially devastating mudslides over the mountainous terrain of Central America," the center said.
Honduras, spared the brunt of the storm's winds, braced for flooding and landslides from heavy rains.
"We have easily another 24 hours of rain. We still have not felt the worst impact of this tropical storm," President Ricardo Maduro told a news conference, adding that emergency services were well prepared.
Adrian has awakened memories of Hurricane Mitch, which killed about 10,000 people, mainly in Honduras and Nicaragua, with mudslides and flooding in 1998.
There were no initial reports of major damage from Adrian, and the storm was expected to continue weakening through the day before reaching the waters of the Caribbean, forecasters said.
Adrian's winds dropped to below 30 mph (48 kph) with higher gusts, although it was expected to dump up to 20 inches (50 cm) of rain in mountain areas.
El Salvador officials were assessing damage after the storm roared through the capital of San Salvador, toppling trees and tearing off branches before moving inland. Swollen rivers and muddy mountainsides still posed a threat, they said.
"This emergency still is not over," President Tony Saca said. "We shouldn't declare victory and must wait until the phenomenon leaves El Salvador to do a damage inventory."
In Guatemala's Puerto San Jose, the memory of Mitch's pounding left townspeople fearful.
"Most of us didn't sleep last night, we were on watch for the storm," said fisherman Adan Reyes, 32, casting his line in a muddy river as boats were banned from leaving the port.
"We're still waiting," said his neighbor Aurleano Tepen, 39, who sports an anchor tattoo on his arm and lives with his family in a tin shack on the beach, where they sell tortillas.
Two men were killed and two injured in Guatemala on Thursday when a mudslide blamed on Adrian swallowed them as they dug a ditch near the Mexican border.
The U.S. State Department issued a warning on Thursday to travelers in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Nicaragua.
The National Hurricane Center has predicted that 11 to 15 tropical storms will form this season in the eastern Pacific. Six to eight are expected to become hurricanes, which are ranked in ascending categories of strength from from 1 to 5.
(Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel in Puerto San Jose, Guatemala, and Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa)