Hurricane Emily menaces Jamaica
Category 4 storm passing south of Caribbean island
CNN) -- Hurricane Emily -- an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph -- continued to gather strength Saturday as it spun through the Caribbean south of .
The latest long-range forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows that the storm poses a threat to eastern and possibly the Texas Gulf Coast by late Tuesday, although such projections often change because of the unpredictable nature of hurricane movement.
The Mexican government issued a hurricane watch Saturday for the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Chetumal to Cabo Catoche, including the Islas Mujeres.
Forecasters expect Emily to move west toward the Cayman Islands late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
As of 2 p.m. ET, the storm was about 135 miles southwest of Kingston, Jamaica, and 295 miles southeast of Grand Cayman, moving west-northwest at about 18 mph.
A deluge of up to 8 inches of rain was forecast for and the Caymans, with up to 15 inches in the mountains, which forecasters warned could trigger flash floods and mudslides.
The hurricane center said Emily's hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 70 miles from the center, and tropical storm-force winds extended outward to 150 miles.
Forecasters said the storm's strength could fluctuate Saturday, as it did Friday.
At Category 4, Emily is capable of causing extensive structural damage and coastal flooding with storm surges of up to 18 feet over normal tide.
A Category 5 status has maximum sustained winds over 155 mph. The latest bulletin from the hurricane center said that within the next 24 hours, Emily could "could become a Category 5 hurricane at times."
A Category 5 hurricane is capable of producing catastrophic damage and flooding.
A hurricane warning was in effect for and the Cayman Islands , meaning hurricane conditions -- including sustained winds in excess of 73 mph -- are expected within the next 24 hours.
Hurricane-force winds are possible later Saturday in gusts along the Jamaican coast, with possible sustained hurricane-force winds at higher elevations, the National Hurricane Center said.
In those locations, "preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," forecasters said.
The government issued a tropical storm watch for its coastline from Belize City north to the Belize-Mexico border.
The center's latest five-day projection of Emily's path shows the storm making a brief landfall on the tip of 's Yucatan Peninsula early Monday, then heading into the Gulf of Mexico .
The storm's projected path has it on a trajectory to hit the Gulf Coast just south of the U.S.-Mexico border early Wednesday. However, the potential landfall path stretches hundreds of miles from Matagorda Bay in Texas south to near Veracruz, .
Emily has been blamed for one death in , which took a near-direct hit from the storm early Thursday.
The hurricane is the latest storm in what has so far been an active 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, with five tropical systems developing in the first six weeks.
All five systems have reached at least tropical storm strength, two became Category 4 hurricanes, and Dennis -- which packed 150 mph winds at one point -- was the earliest Category 4 hurricane ever recorded in the Caribbean basin.
The storm caused extensive damage in and the northern U.S. Gulf Coast, killing more than three dozen people.