November 18, 2005

Tropical Storm Gamma forms in Caribbean

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Reuters) - Floods caused by pounding
rain killed one person in Honduras and washed out roads,
leaving thousands stranded as Tropical Storm Gamma pushed
toward the Central American country's Caribbean coast.

Gamma, a record 24th named storm in an Atlantic hurricane
season that has barely paused for breath, hovered 35 miles (55
km) out to sea from the fishing village of Limon in northern
Honduras, and was expected to curve toward south Florida early
next week.

"The situation is worrying in the north of the country,"
said Jose Ramon Salinas, head of Honduras' emergency services.

"More than 5,000 people have had to be evacuated and roads
and bridges have been damaged or destroyed leaving several
cities and towns isolated," he told Reuters.

A man drowned in La Lima, a banana-growing town in the
north of the country, and four others were missing.

Named like its two predecessors, Alpha and Beta, from the
Greek alphabet after the official list of 2005 storm names was
exhausted, Gamma was 180 miles east-southeast of Belize City,
Belize, by 7 p.m. EST (0000 GMT), the U.S. National Hurricane
Center said.

Gamma was strengthening slowly but was not expected to
reach hurricane strength. The poorly defined storm had top
sustained winds of 45 mph (70 kph) and was moving erratically
toward the west-northwest at 4 mph (6 kph).

The storm was expected to produce up to 10 inches (25.40
cm) of rain in Belize, up to 15 inches on the Yucatan peninsula
and 12 inches in parts of Honduras, the hurricane center said.

It predicted Gamma would swing toward the northeast as it
neared the coast of Belize and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula over
the weekend before skirting western Cuba and aiming for
southern Florida.

Its projected path would follow that of Hurricane Wilma,
which left 6.5 million people without electricity in south
Florida after coming ashore on the state's lower Gulf coast on
October 24.

Wilma at one point became the strongest hurricane ever
observed in the Atlantic basin in terms of minimum central
pressure, before battering Cancun, Mexico, for three days.

Earlier in October, Hurricane Stan killed up to 2,000
people in Central America after flash floods and mudslides
washed away whole villages.

(Additional reporting by Michael Christie in Miami)