Tropical Storm Earl is gaining strength and is expected to be a hurricane when it makes landfall in Belize either tonight or early tomorrow.

Its maximum sustained winds have increased to near 70 miles per hour with higher gusts. At 8 a.m., Earl was 265 miles east southeast of Belize City and 120 miles east of Isla Roatan, Honduras, and is moving towards the west near 14 miles per hour with some decrease in forward speed during the next 48 hours.

“On the forecast track, the core of Earl is expected to pass near the Honduras Bay Islands this afternoon, and then make landfall in Belize tonight or early Thursday…Weakening is expected after the center of Earl moves inland.”

Earl is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 8 to 12 inches over portions of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico through tomorrow night. Isolated maximum amounts of 16 inches are possible in Belize and Mexico. The rains could result in life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.