CHETUMAL, Mexico -- Tropical Storm Diana swept over the Yucatan with 45-mph winds Sunday, but U.S. forecasters predicted it would cause little damage in its passage across the peninsula from the Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico.
Diana was expected to re-emerge over gulf waters sometime Monday morning, when it could move north to threaten the U.S. coast, said Bob Case of the National Hurricane Center near Miami.
'The people along the Gulf Coast certainly need to keep a wary eye on it,' Case said.
Tropical storm warnings were raised for the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula from Cancun, Mexico, south to Belize City, Belize.
At 6 p.m. EDT, Diana was centered near latitude 19.6 north and longitude 88.1 west, on the coast about 60 miles northeast of Chetumal, on the border with Belize, forecasters said.
The storm was moving northwest at near 15 mph, with maximum sustained winds of about 45 mph. Forecasters said only slight weakening was likely while the storm passed across the peninsula.
Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 100 miles, mainly to the north, the hurricane center said.
Diana was considered a weak tropical storm. Meteorologist Daniel Petersen said strong thunderstorms often generate winds of similar strength.
'We're looking at broken tree limbs, that kind of damage. We are not looking at wrecked homes here,' Petersen said.
Coastal residents in the Yucatan could expect tides of 3 to 5 feet above normal, he said.
'The biggest problem is going to be the rainfall. Locally heavy rains are going to be occurring, on the order of 5 to 8 inches along the path of the storm,' he said. 'There could be a problem with some flash flooding as the storm moves across the peninsula ...'
Roberto Vargas, director of the Civil Protection Committee for the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, said the navy and coast guard had been put on alert, and that shipping was suspended in the region at 6 a.m.
Vargas said preparations were under way to shelter anyone left homeless by the storm, although he added that weather reports indicated the situation was unlikely to be serious.
Case said forecasters expect the storm to gain strength once it emerges over the warm gulf waters.
'I think it will go ahead and strengthen, possibly even to a hurricane,' he said. 'It doesn't take much encouragement.'
Case said models prepared by the hurricane center staff showed several possible paths for the storm.
Diana may move west onto the coast of Mexico, or north toward the United States, depending on how the storm is influenced by another weather system over the Gulf of Mexico, he said.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Cesar continued to churn across the Atlantic.
At 6 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered near latitude 26.8 north and longitude 46.8 west, or about 1,140 miles southeast of Bermuda.
Cesar was moving northwest at near 10 mph, and forecasters said that motion was expected to continue through Sunday, but a decrease in forward speed was expected on Monday.
Maximum sustained winds were about 40 mph, and little change in strength was expected during the next 24 hours.