TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Tropical Storm Ernesto moved closer to the Central American coast Monday night as authorities in Nicaragua moved some people from low-lying areas and Honduras considered evacuations.
With Ernesto predicted to stay at sea while passing along Honduras' northern coast, Honduran authorities were monitoring the storm and there were no immediate plans to evacuate people, said Roberto Diaz, operations chief of the country's Contingencies Commission.
"We don't think is necessary to evacuate people at this point," Diaz said. "We don't want to create collective panic ... and we think that ordering an evacuation would create hysteria that would affect the population more than the storm itself."
Authorities sent enough food packages to the sparsely populated area to feed 600 families for two weeks, Diaz said.
Contingencies Commission director Lisandro Rosales said the panel was urging men in the region expected to be most affected to stay alert throughout the night in case of flooding.
"The river flows are still low, so we don't expect any problems," Rosales said.
Rain began falling Monday night and the region between Cabo Gracias a Dios and the city of Trujillo had received about one inch of rain, Diaz said.
Officials in Nicaragua evacuated hundreds of people living along the coast and near the border with Honduras, Guillermo Gonzalez, who is in charge of the country's emergency services, told local television.
"The scope of action will include a big chunk of the northern Caribbean coast, specifically the area between Cabo Gracias a Dios, the Misquito Cays, Puerto Cabezas and Waspam," Gonzalez said.
Ernesto could drop up to five inches of rain along Honduras' coast and the northeastern shores of Nicaragua, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
After passing Honduras, the storm was expected to grow to near-hurricane force before moving ashore near the Belize-Mexico border early Wednesday and eventually passing into the southern Gulf of Mexico.