MEXICO CITY – Tropical Storm Bonnie hit the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua near the border with Costa Rica late Friday and was expected to make a quick march across Central America and potentially develop into a hurricane after reemerging in the Pacific.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Bonnie made landfall about 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of Bluefields, Nicaragua. It was expected to cause significant flooding, with rains of up to 8 inches (about 20 centimeters), and even more in isolated places.
It had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) at landfall and was moving to the west at 16 mph (26 kph).
Rain had begun falling in Bluefields early Friday, and authorities said they had established 50 temporary shelters.
Many of Bluefields' 57,000 residents began nailing boards across their windows in preparation for the storm. Many Nicaraguans still remember Hurricane Joan, a powerful 1988 storm that wreaked huge damage on the Atlantic coast and caused almost 150 deaths in the country.
“We are waiting for the storm to hit, hoping that it won't destroy our region," said Bluefields resident Ricardo Gómez, who was 8 when Joan hit.
The area was also battered by two powerful hurricanes, Eta and Iota, in quick succession in 2020, causing an estimated $700 million in damage.
Officials in Costa Rica expressed concern that the storm would unleash landslides and flooding in an area already saturated by days of rain.
Costa Rica's government said that seven shelters in the northern part of the country already held nearly 700 people displaced by flooding.
A massive landslide a week ago cut the main highway linking the capital San Jose to the Caribbean coast and it remained closed Friday. The government canceled classes nationwide Friday.
Heavy rains had also destroyed or damaged a number of bridges.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Colombia's San Andres Island and from Cabo Blanco in Costa Rica northward to Puerto Sandino in Nicaragua.
The Hurricane Center said it was projected to emerge over the Pacific on Saturday and gain force while moving over the Pacific roughly parallel to the coast over the following days.
The fast-moving disturbance has been drenching parts of the Caribbean region since Monday without, until Friday, meeting the criteria for a named tropical storm.