WATCH: Delta hits Mexico as Cat 2 hurricane, unleashing heavy winds and rain
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — 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 without 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 (175 kmh).
Civil defense official Luís Alberto Ortega Vázquez said there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but Delta 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 power had been knocked out to about half of customers 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 was still over much of the state, but he said state officials would soon be evaluating damage.
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.
All of 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 cell phone light to get up 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 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.”
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 (230 kph) before it weakened as it neared the shore. Forecasters warned it was still an extremely dangerous storm nevertheless, with a life-threatening storm surge that could raise water levels 9 to 13 feet (2.7 to 4 meters), along with large and dangerous waves and flash flooding inland.
Thousands of Quintana Roo residents and tourists were hunkering down in government shelters. Everyone had been ordered off the streets by 7 p.m.
The evacuations of low lying areas, islands and the coastline expanded as Delta exploded over the warm Caribbean waters offshore. Much of Cancun’s hotel zone was cleared out as guests were bused to inland shelters. In Cancun alone, the government opened 160 shelters.
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 up 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, Rashonda Cooper, and their sons, 7-year-old Liam and 4-year-old Easton.
“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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