Tropical Storm Rina on Monday strengthened into a hurricane, building off Honduras and Nicaragua much faster than forecasters had expected as it moved towards Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and its beach resorts.
The sixth named hurricane in the Atlantic this year, Rina was a Category 1 hurricane with top winds of 75 mph and was centered about 195 miles southwest of Grand Cayman, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported. A few hours earlier, Rita's top winds were still just 45 mph.
Forecasters say the storm could become a Category 3 hurricane with winds topping 111 mph by late Tuesday.
The storm is forecast to bring at least 2 inches of rain over the Cayman Islands.
The NHC predicts the storm will make land Thursday along Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to Cancun and other beach resorts that known as the Mexican Riviera.
Officials in Cancun started preparations for storm shelters and potential evacuations, if needed.
"Hotel operators, the civil defense department, tourism and public safety authorities are taking the necessary measures for shelters, transportation and providing information for tourists, obviously with generating alarm that could create a panic," said Cancun Tourism Director Maximo Garcia.
Cancun civil defense director Felix Diaz Villalobos said officials would begin meeting Monday night to begin drawing up emergency plans. While other long-range computer forecasts vary, none see the storm threatening energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico.
Still, the storm is likely to drop heavy rain on parts of the region recovering from recent storms.
In neighboring Nicaragua, the air force launched an aerial search Monday for a navy boat that disappeared late Sunday while trying to evacuate residents from the low-lying coastal village of Sandy Bay, near the Honduran border.
Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua's first lady and secretary of communications, told a local radio station that the boat was carrying four crew members, 12 male passengers, 10 female passengers and a child when officials lost radio contact with the open boat late Sunday.
The boats disappeared when Rina was still not yet a hurricane but had already begun causing rain in the area.
The northeast coast of Honduras is expected to see accumulated rainfall of 1 to 3 inches.
Forecasters were also keeping watch on a broad low-pressure area in the Atlantic Ocean that is producing showers and thunderstorms over the Windward Islands.
That disturbance was moving slowly west-northwest toward the Caribbean and forecasters gave it only a 10 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone in the next two days.