Tropical Storm Alma slammed into northwestern Nicaragua on Thursday, forcing evacuations and causing flooding along the coast.
The first named storm of the eastern Pacific season hit near the colonial city of Leon, whose mayor, Transito Tellez, said that houses had been destroyed and power knocked out.
"It's raining like I've never seen," schoolteacher Socorro Alvarez said.
Nicaragua's Radio Ya reported that a 30-year-old man was electrocuted in Trasbayo, 40 miles southeast of Managua, after high winds snapped a power line.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Alma was weakening as it headed inland, with maximum sustained winds of about 50 mph. It was expected to weaken further before hitting Guatemala or Belize late today or Saturday.
Forecasters warned that it could dump as much as 20 inches of rain in places.
The fast-growing storm took many in Central America by surprise. People crowded supermarkets in Managua to buy food, water, candles and batteries, and officials canceled classes and schools were on standby to become temporary shelters.
Many flights were grounded, and a small plane carrying five people had to make an emergency landing in the Caribbean coastal city of Bluefields because of bad weather.