Hurricane Dean, the Atlantic season's first major storm, was heading toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a powerful Category 4 storm early Monday as it continued to track west across the Caribbean, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory.
Dean passed just south of Jamaica on Sunday with winds near 150 miles per hour, dumping heavy rain on the island.
At 8 am New York time (1 pm London time), Dean was located about 440 miles (710 km) east of Belize City in Belize which borders Mexico.
Dean was moving west at 21 mph, packing maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, and was expected to hit the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula tonight.
A westward or west-northwestward motion was expected over the next 24 hours.
The NHC said the storm had the potential to reach Category 5 strength, the highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale with winds of 156 mph or greater, within the next 24 hours.
Most computer models show Dean sweeping across the Yucatan on Tuesday, then moving into the Bay of Campeche in the southwest Gulf of Mexico before making landfall near Tampico, Mexico, late Wednesday.
The NHC said it expected Dean to weaken as it crossed the Yucatan, then restrengthen in the Bay of Campeche.
The NHC will issue its next advisory at 11 am New York time.