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Hurricane Delta makes landfall near Cancun, Mexico

Fishermen secure boats in Cancun, Mexico, ahead of Hurricane Delta.
(Victor Ruiz Garcia / Associated Press)

Hurricane Delta made landfall just south of the Mexican resort of Cancun on Wednesday, downing trees and knocking out power along the northeastern coast of Yucatan Peninsula, but there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said satellite imagery, radar data from Cuba and surface observations in Mexico indicate that the center of the Category 2 storm came ashore around 5:30 a.m. local time, sustaining top winds of 110 mph.

The center said Delta was about to emerge into the Gulf of Mexico after having crossed over the Yucatan peninsula, where it knocked out power to about 266,000 customers, one-third of the total in the area.

There were no reports of any deaths or injuries, said Carlos Joaquín González, the governor of the state of Quintana Roo.

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“Fortunately, the most dangerous part of the hurricane has passed,” Joaquín González said, noting the big problem was downed trees that had knocked out power lines and blocked roadways.

Civil defense official Luís Alberto Ortega Vázquez said the storm had toppled about 95 trees and knocked out electricity to parts of Cancun and Cozumel. Ortega said about 39,000 people had been evacuated in the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan, and that about 2,700 people had taken refuge in storm shelters in the two states.

Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquín said Wednesday morning that about half of customers had lost power in Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. There were reports of some flooding in Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. Overnight emergency calls came in from people whose windows or doors were broken and they were taken to shelters, he said.

Joaquín said that within a couple of hours, hotels that did not suffer serious damage could hopefully begin to bring their guests back from shelters. The storm still lingered over much of the state, but he said state officials would soon be evaluating damage.

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Early Wednesday, guests of the Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel awoke in the sweltering classrooms of the Technological Institute of Cancun campus, where they had been moved Tuesday.

As a ferocious hurricane bears down on South Florida, water managers desperately lower canals in anticipation of 4 feet of rain.

All the windows had been covered with plywood so they couldn’t see what was happening, but they said the howling winds started around 2 a.m. and there had been heavy rain. The power — and with it the air conditioning — had been knocked out early Wednesday so it was steamy as tourists used their cellphone lights to navigate in the dark and make their way for a first cup of coffee.

“The hard part has been the waiting,” said Ana Karen Rodríguez of Monterrey. She and a friend arrived in Cancun on Tuesday morning and by afternoon were shuttled to the shelter. She said the hotel had planned well. “It’s been good. I feel comfortable actually.”

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Throughout the day Tuesday, the situation had appeared grave for this stretch of the Mexican coast.

Delta had increased in strength by 80 mph in just 24 hours, and its top winds peaked at 145 mph before it weakened as it neared the shore. Forecasters warned it was still an extremely dangerous storm, with a life-threatening storm surge that could raise water levels 9 to 13 feet, along with large and dangerous waves and flash flooding inland.

Thousands of Quintana Roo residents and tourists were hunkering down in dozens of government shelters. Everyone was ordered off the streets by 7 p.m.

Throughout Tuesday, the evacuations of low-lying areas, islands and the coastline expanded as Delta exploded over warm Caribbean waters into a major hurricane. Much of Cancun’s hotel zone was cleared out as guests were bused to inland shelters. In Cancun alone, the government opened 160 shelters.

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Some 300 guests and nearly 200 staff from the Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel were taken to the Technological Institute of Cancun campus. All wearing masks, they spread out on thin mattresses in a classroom building and tried to get comfortable as workers boarded the building’s windows in a light rain. Some played cards or watched videos on their phones, while others called relatives.

“The hotel has done a good job of making sure that we were provided for and that we’re going to be safe here in this place, so we don’t have any concerns at all,” said Shawn Sims, a tourist from Dallas sheltering with his wife and two young sons.

“This is my first [hurricane] experience, but I see that these guys have a plan and they know what they’re doing,” Sims said.

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State tourism officials said there were more than 40,000 tourists in Quintana Roo, a fraction of the usual number. The hurricane comes on top of months of a pandemic lockdown that has devastated the state’s tourism industry.

At the Cancun Convention Center, 400 tourists from hotels and rental properties bunked for the night.

“We hope that in this place we are surely much safer,” Quintana Roo Tourism Secretary Marisol Vanegas said. “This is a structure that has withstood other hurricanes.”

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Delta was forecast to spend several hours lashing the Yucatan Peninsula before moving into the Gulf of Mexico and re-strengthening before hitting the U.S. Gulf Coast later in the week. People in Louisiana or Mississippi should prepare now for hurricane-force winds to begin hitting their coastlines on Friday, the hurricane center advised.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Delta was expected to make landfall there Friday night or Saturday morning, with the entire state in the storm’s possible path. State and local officials in coastal areas were shoring up levees, sandbagging and taking other protection measures, he said.

Louisiana is still recovering from Hurricane Laura, which ravaged the southwestern region as it roared ashore as a Category 4 storm in August. More than 6,600 Laura evacuees remain in hotels around the state, mainly in New Orleans, because their homes are too heavily damaged to return.

Mexico put the commander of its navy in charge of the federal response to Delta. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday that 5,000 federal troops and emergency personnel were being made available in Quintana Roo.

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Juan Carlos Avila arrived at the Technological Institute of Cancun shelter with his seven-months pregnant wife, Joselyn, and their 3-year-old-son, Alexander. He said Tuesday evening the staff had made them comfortable and seemed well prepared.

The family, who live in Miami, had been in Cancun a week and already went through Tropical Storm Gamma, which soaked the area over the weekend.

“We’ve practically lived in storms during our stay here in Cancun,” Avila said.


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