Updated 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18:
After a fairly quiet June and July, a hurricane warning is now in effect for the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico from Cancun to Punta Herrero, including Cozumel.
Inland, power outages and flash flooding are expected in Mérida when Grace slices through the Yucatán Peninsula tomorrow.
At 5 a.m., Grace — still a tropical storm — was about 40 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, and tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 115 miles from the storm’s center. It was moving west at 16 miles per hour.
The storm is forecast to be classified as a hurricane Wednesday night as it approaches the Yucatán Peninsula. State government officials are posting bulletins online.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Grace was expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain over portions of the Yucatán Peninsula.
While overland, Grace will likely weaken — and be downgraded back to a tropical storm — but the entire Peninsula has been told to brace for damaging winds and rain starting late Wednesday and all of Thursday.
By 1 p.m. Thursday it will be south of Mérida, between the capital and Muna, and will continue toward Celestún. By the end of the afternoon it will be over the Gulf of Mexico, forecasters said.
From there, it will make a second landfall in central Mexico.
A tropical storm as of Tuesday afternoon, Grace was producing top winds of 50 mph as it passed over Jamaica.
Over the next several days, Grace is expected to continue northwest, approaching the Yucatán Peninsula late Wednesday or early Thursday.
“Grace could be near hurricane strength when it approaches the Yucatán coast of Mexico late Wednesday and early Thursday,” the NHC said.
According to the trajectory models, storm Grace will pass over the south of the island of Cozumel and will enter through Akumal, passing near Valladolid and Mérida, and will exit to the Gulf of Mexico between Sisal and Celestún.
Once it emerges on the other side of the Peninsula and into the Bay of Campeche, it should intensify once more and threaten the Gulf Coast of Mexico this weekend.
Citizens of the Peninsula are advised to start implementing contingency plans and preparing to face the possible arrival of this system. Warnings and alerts may be issued by the Civil Protection system.
The Regional Port Authority banned small boats from sailing starting 8 p.m. Tuesday. Major shipping ports will be closed today at noon, keeping large vessels anchored.