Hurricane Rina continued on its projected path Wednesday toward Mexico's Yucatan peninsula right at the heart of the nation's top tourist destinations, Cancun and the Mayan Riviera.
Located in the northwestern Caribbean Sea, Hurricane Rina remained a Category 2 storm on Wednesday morning, though strengthening was likely. Forecasters predict that Rina will become a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) before pummeling the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on Thursday.
So far, Hurricane Rina has caused at least eight Carnival Cruise Lines ships to change their course, according to the Web site Travel Agent Central.
Three Norwegian Cruise Line ships have reportedly canceled their Friday port of call in the area as well.
The company is closely monitoring the path of Hurricane Rina. Depending on the speed and path of the storm, we may have to alter some itineraries. Guests onboard will be notified and this site will be updated if any changes are made.
Both Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines have issued weather updates on their Web sites.
Airlines have also made adjustments for the storm. Many eased their change fee rules on Tuesday to allow passengers to alter travel plans. It's best to contact your airline directly, but here's a look at some of the major carriers:
United will wave change fees on tickets between Wednesday and Monday for travel to Cozumel and Cancun in Mexico as well as Grand Cayman Island in the Cayman Islands.
Delta will drop change fees for ticketholders traveling to or from Cancun and Cozumel on Thursday and Friday.
US Airlines will wave change fees for those traveling to or from Cancun on Thursday or Friday, though they must be rebooked for either Wednesday or Saturday through next Tuesday.
Virgin America will drop change fees on tickets booked on or before Tuesday for travel to and from Cancun.
JetBlue will waive change fees for travel in and out of Cancun on Thursday and Friday, though ticketholders must change their date of travel through Nov. 1.
Rina has also forced the evacuation of many hotels in Cancun and along the resort-filled Mayan Riviera, Mexico's most popular tourist destination.
Cancun's airport was still open on Wednesday morning, but six flights had been cancelled.
On Tuesday there were around 83,000 tourists in the state of Quintana Roo, mostly foreigners, at big hotels in Cancun, according to State Tourism Director Juan Carlos Gonzalez Hernandez.
There were only about 1,700 tourists in Cozumel, and many of them were leaving, according to Hernandez.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) have followed the storm since last Thursday when a broad area of low pressure was centered between the eastern tip of Honduras and Jamaica. Rina became a tropical storm on Sunday evening before strengthening to a hurricane on Monday afternoon.
According to Wednesday's 7:00 a.m. CDT alert from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Hurricane Rina was located 230 miles south-southeast of Cozumel Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 110mph. The Category 2 storm was headed on a slow motion track westward at 4 mph with hurricane-force winds extending outward 25 miles from the storm center and tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 115 miles.
Rina is expected to make a turn toward the northwest with an increase in forward speed Wednesday afternoon, followed by a turn toward the north by late Thursday.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from north of Punta Gruesa to Cancun.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Chetumal to Punta Gruesa.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm watch is in effect for the coast of Belize from Belize City northward and the Honduran Bay Islands of Roatan and Guanaja.
Locations within the tropical storm warning area will likely begin to feel the effects of Hurricane Rina by Wednesday afternoon, while hurricane-force-winds will not affect land until Thursday.
Rina is predicted to dump upwards of 16 inches of rain over the eastern Yucatan peninsula from Wednesday morning into Friday before it spins back between Cuba and the Florida Keys as a tropical storm.
Rina is the seventeenth named storm and sixth hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Philippe was the last Atlantic storm. It fizzled out in September over the Atlantic without ever making landfall.