Hurricane Paula rapidly intensified from a weak Category 1 system to a robust Category 2 storm with 100 mph winds on Tuesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said in a special advisory.
At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, the system was in the Caribbean about 145 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, plodding northwest at 10 mph.
Under the latest forecast, Paula would remain in the Caribbean for the next five days, as there was no change to the projected path. However, it would strengthen to near Category 3 status with winds of about 110 mph within the next day.
The system already has shown a propensity for intensifying quickly, growing from a disturbance to a hurricane in only 12 hours, between 5 p.m. Monday and 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Paula is forecast to graze Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday and approach western Cuba on Saturday.
Before reaching Cuba, Paula is expected to weaken to a tropical storm, the result of wind shear. The projected path then aims it southeast. Forecasters said that prediction remains uncertain, as some models aim the system northeast toward Florida or the Atlantic.
Paula is a compact system with hurricane force winds that extend 10 miles from its core and tropical force winds that extend 60 miles. It threatens to produce up to 10 inches of rain over Mexico’s Yucatan and western Cuba.