CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Top Caribbean getaway Cancun shuttered shops and evacuated tourists from beach hotels as authorities prepared for the onslaught of Delta, a potentially devastating hurricane poised to tear across Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula on Wednesday.
Delta, a Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity, is due to hit the coast in the early hours and sweep over Cancun before turning north and bearing down on the U.S. states of Texas and Louisiana later this week.
One of the strongest hurricanes to threaten Cancun in years, Delta’s arrival is a blow to Mexican efforts to revive tourism in the surrounding beach-lined state of Quintana Roo, where the industry has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I want to go home, this is crazy,” said Dee Harris, a 29-year-old from Michigan who came to Cancun with his partner and had been due to leave before the storm led to the cancellation of their flight. “The vacation was good before this.”
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Late on Tuesday, Delta was about 135 miles (217 km) east-southeast of the island of Cozumel, blowing maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (209 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Barreling northwest relatively briskly at 16 mph (26 kph), Delta was expected to pass through Quintana Roo in 10-14 hours, state governor Carlos Joaquin said.
“Hopefully, that speed means it won’t do us so much damage,” Joaquin told Mexican radio.
Slow-moving hurricanes often do more destruction than those with faster lateral movement because they have more time to unleash their force on structures.
Delta is expected to lose some wind power over the peninsula before gathering strength again in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Tuesday, residents queued at supermarkets to stock up on provisions in anticipation of disruptions, while the state government readied shelters that need extra space due to coronavirus social-distancing requirements.
Officials ordered the evacuation of Cancun’s hotel zone and other coastal areas, while shop workers boarded up windows.
A hurricane watch was in place from the beach town of Tulum westwards, including Cozumel.
Water levels could rise by up to 13 feet (4 m) over normal tide conditions due to Delta, the NHC said.
The Yucatan peninsula had already taken a hit at the weekend from Hurricane Gamma, a smaller storm that damaged property and forced restaurants and other attractions to close.
Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Robert Birsel
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