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Hurricane Bret Nears Texas, Mexico

From Associated Press

Hundreds of people were given until sunup today to get off South Padre Island as Hurricane Bret took aim at the southern tip of Texas and Mexico.

The National Weather Service posted a hurricane warning for a 120-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast from La Pesca, Mexico, to Texas’ Baffin Bay, between Brownsville and Corpus Christi.

Coastal residents on Saturday stocked up at gasoline pumps and grocery stores, and building supply stores were overrun with customers wanting plywood, nails, flashlights and generators.

“We opened at 6 a.m. and at 10 minutes until 6 there were already lines out there,” said Alma Ortiz at a Home Depot in McAllen, about 60 miles inland.

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Officials of popular South Padre Island ordered all 2,100 residents to pack and leave by 6 this morning, Mayor Ed Cyganiewicz said. Residents of Port Isabel, on the mainland side of the causeway leading to the barrier island, were given until 9 a.m. to evacuate.

School buses were used to carry people to inland shelters.

If anyone refused to leave, “then we hand out little body tags,” said Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa.

“You’re not going to live if you stay on the island and the hurricane hits,” he said. “You’re going to drown.”

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Some tourists remained on the beach at midday Saturday, even though the sea was choppy and the sky was turning gray.

Veronica Nunez of Monterrey, Mexico, got in some last-minute kite flying with her husband and two daughters.

“We were supposed to leave tomorrow, but we have to leave this afternoon instead,” she said.

Long lines of people waited to check out of beachfront hotels.

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The hurricane, packing winds of 135 mph, was upgraded to a dangerous Category 4 hurricane late Saturday and was expected to make landfall today along the Texas coast.

It was moving north at about 10 mph, an increase from the earlier 8 mph. At 8 p.m. PDT, Bret was about 155 miles southeast of Brownsville.

In addition to powerful winds, Bret was expected to spin off destructive tornadoes, drench the region with up to 10 inches of rain and hit the coast with a 10-foot wall of water, forecasters said. Rain had started falling around Brownsville late Saturday night.

Meanwhile, several thousand inmates joined other Texans headed for higher ground.

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Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said 3,175 prisoners in far South Texas were being sent by bus more than 100 miles to the north.

Officials hoped to complete emergency evacuations from Willacy County State Jail in Raymondville and Segovia Unit and Lopez State Jail in Edinberg by 5 a.m. today.

The inmates will be housed at the McConnell, Garza East and Garza West units in Beeville, and in the Connally Unit in Kenedy.

Texas hasn’t been hit by a hurricane since Jerry killed three people in October 1989.

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But the state’s 367-mile-long coast has been struck by tropical storms since then, including Charley, which dumped 18 inches of rain that killed 19 people in 1998.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Hurricane Bret

Position: 25.2 N, 95.1 W

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Moving: N at 10 mph

Sustained winds: 135 mph

Wind gusts: 160 mph

As of: Saturday 8 p.m. PDT

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Source: AccuWeather Inc.


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