Hurricane Ernesto was poised to make landfall on the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Tuesday night, U.S. forecasters said.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami urged people in the Yucatan to complete preparations to protect life and property.
At 5 p.m. EDT, Ernesto was about 140 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico, with winds of 80 mph. It was headed west-northwest at 15 mph.
Meanwhile, Belize changed its hurricane warning to a tropical storm warning for its coast from south of Belize City to the Guatemalan border.
A hurricane watch was in effect for Chetumal to Tulum on the east coast of the Yucatan, for Cozomel and the Belize coast northward to the border of Mexico.
By 2 p.m. Tuesday Ernesto had grown from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane, a U.S. Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft reported to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm was forecast to lose strength as it passes over land for about 24 hours, but could well power up again when it reaches the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
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