Monster Hurricane Dean Tears Up Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

MIAMI, Florida, August 21, 2007 (ENS) - Now a Category 5 behemoth, Hurricane Dean slammed into the Mexico's Caribbean coast early this morning, lashing beach resorts on the Yucatan Peninsula, where tourists who failed to get a plane ticket out of the area are huddled in shelters. Category 5 is the strongest class of hurricane and can do massive damage.

Reports from a U.S. Air Force hurricane hunter plane indicate that the eye of Dean made landfall near the cruise ship port of Costa Maya or Majahual around 3:30 this morning CDT. The hurricane was intensifying right up to the moment of impact.

Hurricane Dean makes landfall on Mexico's Caribbean coast. August 21, 2007. (Image courtesy NOAA)
The "potentially catastrophic" hurricane could cause storm surge flooding and high tides of "12 to 18 feet above normal tide levels along with large and dangerous battering waves" at Costa Maya and to the north, said the U.S. National Weather Service.

Mexico evacuated resorts and oil rigs as the killer storm whipped up maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour with higher gusts, said the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

Police ordered vehicles off the road and shop owners boarded up their windows along the Mayan Riviara, a strip of beach resorts that has still not completely recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The strongest Atlantic storm on record, Wilma wrecked Cancun and other beach resorts, washing whole beaches out to sea.

A hurricane warning is currently in effect for the entire coast of Belize and along the Yucatan coast of Mexico from Belize north to Cancun.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says that while some weakening is forecast as Dean crosses the Yucatan Peninsula, Dean is expected to maintain hurricane strength through the next 24 hours.

In Texas, Governor Rick Perry Monday advised Texans to keep a wary eye on Hurricane Dean. Although it made landfall in Mexico, this potentially catastrophic storm could result in flooding and tornado activity in South Texas.

"Texans can be confident that we have activated the resources necessary to handle whatever Dean throws at us," Perry said at a briefing, where he was joined by Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw and Jack Colley, chief of the Governorís Division of Emergency Management.

Hurricane Dean dumped torrential rain on Jamaica. (Photo by Claude Fletcher)
"Now is the time for Texans to make sure they are prepared. Coastal and South Texas residents need to keep a close eye on weather reports, fill up their gas tanks, and make sure they have their medications, plenty of water and non-perishable foods on hand."

Texas officials evacuated three jails in advance of the hurricane, one in Raymondville and two in Edinburg. The move affected 3,320 inmates and was completed without incident, criminal justice officials said.

Hurricane Dean grazed Jamaica Sunday on its way westward across the Caribbean. Two people lost their lives in hurricane related incidents there, and the power was knocked out across the island nation.

The State of Public Emergency declared Sunday by Governor-General Professor Kenneth Hall on the advice of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller might be over quickly if electricity is restored before the end of the week, the prime minister said Monday.

Complaints that security forces had taken advantage of the darkness and confusion to abuse Jamaican residents were taken seriously by Prime Minister Miller. Speaking Monday at a press briefing at Jamaica House, Miller told journalists that her decision to declare an emergency was intended to protect human rights, in particular "the right to life."

The hurricane caused damage on other Caribbean islands, toppling trees onto roads and damaging homes and businesses on Martinique and the Dominican Republic.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.