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Ernesto douses Yucatan Peninsula
Ernesto weakened to a tropical storm Wednesday as it doused Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with torrential rain, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
Even though it was downgraded from a category 1 hurricane, Ernesto still carried 70 mph winds and heavy rains, prompting Mexican officials to issue a hurricane warning along the Gulf of Mexico from Barra de Nautla to Coatzacoalcos.
A hurricane warning also was issued along the coast of Belize from Belize City to the Mexico border.
Ernesto was about 55 miles west-northwest of Chetumal, Mexico, and about 120 miles southeast of Campeche, Mexico, moving west at 15 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 5 a.m. EDT advisory.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect from coastal areas along the gulf for Belize and Mexico, including the Yucatan Peninsula.
After moving across the southern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, the center of Ernesto was expected to emerge over the Bay of Campeche in the afternoon, forecasters said.
On its forecast track, Ernesto was expected to approach the Mexican coast Thursday, the center said.
Ernesto was expected to weaken as it moved across land, but could restrengthen to a hurricane before landfall, the hurricane center said.
Tourist and commercial activities ground to a halt Tuesday across Quintana Roo state and more than 2,000 people were evacuated, El Universal reported.
Dozens of tourists were evacuated from Mahahual and bused to Chetumal, Informador.com reported.
“I’m fine. This is a great adventure,” Canadian tourist Patricia Footit said. “I was on the beach, resting when [officials] told us we had to evacuate.”
The airport in Chetumal suspended operations and several main roads were closed, officials said.
The Mexican army was making preparations to assist in areas under weather watches and warnings and temporary shelters were being built, El Universal said.
Hotel owners reported a drop in occupancy rates as many visitors began leaving popular destinations because of Ernesto, Informador.com said.
Cruise ships traveling to the island of Cozumel and the port of Mahahual were diverted by the shipping authorities to Veracruz, officials said.
Rainfall associated with the storm was to range from just a few inches to up to a foot in some areas of Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula and northern Guatemala.
Flash floods, mudslides and dangerous storm surges are possible throughout the region, forecasters said.
Copyright 2012 by United Press International