Emily hits Yucatan;Texas eyes the storm

Powerful Hurricane Emily hit the Yucatan peninsula early Monday with 135-mph winds.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | July 18, 2005


Powerful Hurricane Emily hit Mexico's Yucatan peninsula early Monday with 135-mph winds.

The Category 4 storm made landfall near Tulum — 100 miles south of Cancun. The northern eyewall — where the worst weather would be expected — passed directly over Cozumel.

Emily weakened to a Category 2 storm as it passed over Yucatan, but would likely re-strengthen as it passes over the Gulf of Mexico, said forecasters. By Wednesday, Emily could make landfall likely in northeastern Mexico. A hurricane watch was issued from Cabo Rojo, Mexico, to Baffin Bay, Texas.

Tourists evacuated Mexico's Yucatan peninsula as the storm drew closer on Sunday. Tens of thousands of tourists evacuated inland, to hotels and convention centers, and some 18,000 left via airplane earlier this week. Cancun alone has about 50,000 hotel rooms.

Hurricane Emily - earlier this week on the verge of becoming a Category 5 hurricane - is the strongest storm to form this early in the Atlantic season since record-keeping began in 1860. The storm came with nearly the same force as Hurricane Gilbert, which killed 300 people in Mexico and the Caribbean in 1988.

The storm passed south of Jamaica on Saturday.

Although landfall was not expected in southern Texas on Wednesday, that part of the state could be affected by the storm. And southeast Texas doesn’t need more rain. The area is already saturated from thunderstorms this week, and a flood watch was posted over the weekend.

Parts of southern Texas are still recovering from Hurricane Claudette, which struck in July 2003. At least some residents are still dealing with leaky roofs and mold-infested homes two years after that storm struck some of the most economically challenged counties in the state.

Interfaith groups - such as the Matagorda Interfaith Goodwill Humanitarian Team - were created in the wake of Claudette, and those existing relationships will help jump-start a coordinated response should one be necessary, said clergy and other responders.

Texas - particularly the Houston area - was also hit hard by Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, and long-term recovery committees created in the wake of that disaster are also prepared to re-activate if needed.

Emily, the second major storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, devastated parts of Grenada earlier this week. The storm pounded Grenada with 90-mph winds, killing at least one person, destroying at least 100 homes, and tearing the roofs from about 2,000 residences.

Last year’s Hurricane Ivan killed 17 people in Jamaica and 39 in Grenada.


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