(Reuters) - Tropical storm Julia is expected to intensify into a hurricane on Saturday afternoon or evening as it moves towards the eastern coast of the Central American country of Nicaragua, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The storm could cause "hurricane-force winds and a dangerous storm surge" in the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andres off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, according to NHC, just one week after Hurricane Ian pummeled Cuba and Florida.
"Julia a little stronger and expected to become a hurricane later today," NHC said in an advisory. "Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides possible from heavy rains over Central America through early next week."
The tropical storm is currently 115 miles (185 kilometers) from Providencia island and about 265 miles (430 kilometers) from the Nicaraguan coast, where it is expected to arrive early Sunday morning, according to NHC.
Colombia president Gustavo Petro said in a tweet on Saturday morning that the country was on "maximum alert" and called on hotels to be ready to provide refuge to vulnerable populations.
After making landfall in Nicaragua, the hurricane is expected to gradually weaken and move north along the Pacific coasts of Honduras and El Salvador on Sunday and Monday, NHC said. The storm could bring flash flooding to southern Mexico early next week, NHC said.
(Reporting by Aida Pelaez-Fernandez and Jackie Botts in Mexico City; Editing by Nick Zieminski)