A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning remained in effect Friday night for Honduras from the Nicaragua/Honduras border westward to Limon, Honduras and the Bay Islands.
A hurricane watch means that hurricane-force winds are possible, and is usually issued 48 hours in advance of tropical-storm-force winds.
Tropical Storm Richard was slowly beginning to shift toward the west on Friday morning after being nearly stationary in the southwestern Caribbean since it formed on Thursday.
Satellite imagery indicated that the storm was beginning to become more organized and strengthen. However, a hurricane hunter aircraft investigating the storm on Friday morning was unable to find stronger winds, so Richard remains a minimal tropical storm with sustained winds of 45 mph with higher gusts.
Richard is now moving slowly toward the west at 5 mph. A west-to-northwest motion at an increasing forward speed is expected over the next couple of days, the National Hurricane Center said. The current forecast track from the Hurricane Center shows Richard approaching the coast of northeastern Honduras late Saturday.
Richard is expected to produce rainfall accumulations of three to five inches over northern Honduras with isolated higher amounts of up to seven inches. Accumulations of this amount could produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, forecasters said.
Tropical-storm-force winds will be possible in northeastern Honduras on Saturday evening. Hurricane-force winds will be possible in the area early Sunday morning.
The forecast track from the National Hurricane Center shows Richard heading toward the northern coast of Belize by Monday morning. By that time, Richard should be a strong category 1 hurricane with sustained winds reaching up to 95 mph. It is possible that Richard could intensify into a category 2 hurricane before making landfall near the Mexico/Belize border on Monday morning.
Thereafter, the system is expected to weaken over land as it moves across the southern Yucatan Peninsula. Wind shear, which creates conditions that are unfavorable for tropical cyclones, is expected to be strong over the southern Gulf of Mexico and re-strengthening will be unlikely after it re-emerges into the Bay of Campeche. Richard is forecast to weaken into a tropical depression and could dissipate in the Bay of Campeche by Wednesday of next week.