Hurricane Ernesto passed over the Yucatan peninsula last night, causing heavy rains and flooding. The category one hurricane had sustained winds of up to 85mph, but lost wind force inland and was downgraded to a tropical storm. However, Ernesto is expected to regain strength again once it moves over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
No deaths have been reported thus far but the storm ripped billboards and toppled trees in Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo state. Fishermen and tourists in Tulum and the Costa Maya were forced to evacuate and take shelter inland. North, in the city of Tulum, 6,000 tourists were relocated to hotels away from the beach and another 1,300 people were moved from the resort towns of Bacalar and Mahahual to refuges in Chetumal.
Mexican officials had shelters ready in the big resort areas of Cancun and the Riviera Maya, although Ernesto missed that and struck farther south. Nonetheless, two cruise ships scheduled to arrive on the Riviera Maya put off docking there.
Some flooding was reported in Chetumal and electricity was cut off in Mahahual, a cruise ship port that was initially hit with hurricane wind forces by Ernesto.
On last report, the storm was located over the southwest part of the peninsula, moving west at 15mph.
Luana Antonicelli, a 23-year-old tourist from Australia said she had to leave her beachfront cabana and move to a hotel two miles inland. “It’s a bit annoying because I want to be on the beach,” she said, “but these things happen.”
Authorities were not taking any chances, and were especially concerned with getting people out of low-lying coastal settlements. Cruz Garcia is a tourist-guide who makes a living there and has seen bad weather before; “It is a risk because if the tide rises it could be a disaster,” he said.
If Ernesto gains back wind force over open sea, it will likely make landfall at the port of Veracruz later this week.