Remnants of Matthew soak parts of Mexico, Central America as it loses punch over land

By Luis Angel Sas, AP
Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weakened Matthew soaks southern Mexico, Guatemala

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico — The remnants of Tropical Storm Matthew drenched parts of Central America and southern Mexico on Sunday, a day after it weakened to a tropical depression.

The storm’s forward movement slowed to a crawl and top wind speeds fell to about 25 mph (35 kph). Its center was near the city of Villahermosa in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco, an area already hit by severe flooding in recent months.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the system’s slow movement meant it could produce rainfall totals of 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) over parts of Mexico and Guatemala, threatening deadly flash floods and mudslides.

Mexico’s National Water Commission said in a statement that people in riverside communities on the boundary between Tabasco and the border state of Chiapas should seek higher ground, saying river levels “will rise very rapidly.”

The commission earlier said it was working to widen and deepen channels below dams in preparation.

Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco state, is already lined with sandbags and improvised levees, and the rains from Matthew’s remnants may worsen things for about 150,000 people affected by earlier flooding statewide.

In Honduras, the National Emergencies Commission said at least 6,600 people in eight coastal provinces were forced from their homes by Matthew and flooding damaged nine bridges.

The storm also displaced more than 500 people and blocked highways in neighboring Guatemala.

Guatemala had already been buffeted by heavy rains in recent months that killed about 274 people and caused $1.1 billion in damage, according to government estimates.

Matthew made landfall as a tropical storm Friday on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast and quickly crossed into Honduras, where it toppled utility poles and left thousands without power for hours.

Meanwhile, far from land in the open Atlantic, former hurricane Lisa dissipated Sunday, after having declined to a tropical depression.

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