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Hurricane Delta makes landfall in Mexico, could impact Louisiana in coming days

Hurricane Delta has made landfall just south of the Mexican resort of Cancun as an extremely dangerous Category 2 storm, downing trees and knocking out power along the northeastern coast of Yucatan Peninsula, but without immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

No known deaths but much of Cancun's hotel zone cleared out, tourists bused to inland shelters

A flooded street in Cancun, Mexico. Hurricane Delta made landfall Wednesday near the tourist area as a Category 2 storm, downing trees and knocking out power to some resorts along the northeastern coast of Yucatan Peninsula. (Victor Ruiz Garcia/The Associated Press)

Hurricane Delta made landfall Wednesday just south of the Mexican resort of Cancun as an extremely dangerous Category 2 storm, downing trees and knocking out power along the northeastern coast of Yucatan Peninsula, but without immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the hurricane was centred after 2 p.m. ET about 110 kilometres east-northeast of Puerto Progreso, just off the northern edge of the peninsula. Delta had maximum sustained winds of 155 km/h but was expected to gain strength again before lashing the U.S. Gulf coast.

Delta could make landfall, possibly as a Category 3 storm, some time Friday south of Morgan City, La.

The hurricane came ashore in Mexico around 5:30 a.m. local time Wednesday with top winds of 175 km/h. Officials said  hundreds of tourists were forced to take refuge in storm shelters. It knocked out power to about 266,000 households, or about one-third of the utility customers on the Yucatan peninsula.

There were no reports of any deaths or injuries, said Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez, the governor of the state of Quintana Roo.

"Fortunately, the most dangerous part of the hurricane has passed," Joaquin Gonzalez said, noting the big problem was downed trees that had knocked out power lines and blocked roadways.

A damaged gas station after a utility pole fell over as a result of the effects of Hurricane Delta in Cancun. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

Civil defence official Luis Alberto Ortega Vazquez said about 39,000 people had been relocated in the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan, and that about 2,700 people had taken refuge in storm shelters in the two states. Joaquin Gonzalez said some tourists who had to take refuge at storm shelters had not yet been allowed to return to their hotels, where cleanup was underway, but said he hoped they would be able to by the end of the day.

There were reports of some flooding in Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. Overnight emergency calls came in from people whose windows or doors were broken and they were taken to shelters, he said.

Early Wednesday, guests of the Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel awoke in the sweltering classrooms of the Technological Institute of Cancun campus where they had been moved Tuesday.

All of the windows had been covered with plywood so they couldn't see what was happening, but they said the howling winds started around 2 a.m. and there had been heavy rain. The power — and with it the air conditioning — had been knocked out early Wednesday so it was steamy as tourists used their cell phone light to get up and make their way for a first cup of coffee.

(CBC News)

"The hard part has been the waiting," said Ana Karen Rodriguez of Monterrey. She and a friend arrived in Cancun Tuesday morning and by afternoon were shuttled to the shelter. She said the hotel had planned well. "It's been good. I feel comfortable actually."

Delta had increased in strength by 120 km/h in just 24 hours, and its top winds peaked at 230 km/h before it weakened as it neared the shore. Forecasters warned it was still an extremely dangerous storm nevertheless, with a life-threatening storm surge that could raise water levels 2.7 to 4 metres, along with large and dangerous waves and flash flooding inland.

A storefront stands shattered by Hurricane Delta in Cancun on Wednesday. Delta was forecast to spend several hours lashing the Yucatan Peninsula before its path back to the Gulf of Mexico and toward the U.S. (Victor Ruiz Garcia/The Associated Press)

The evacuations of low-lying areas, islands and the coastline expanded as Delta exploded over the warm Caribbean waters offshore. Much of Cancun's hotel zone was cleared out as guests were bused to inland shelters. In Cancun alone, the government opened 160 shelters.

State tourism officials said more than 40,000 tourists were in Quintana Roo, a fraction of what would normally be there. Delta's damage comes on top of months of pandemic-induced lockdown that has devastated the state's tourism industry.

At the Cancun Convention Centre, 400 tourists from hotels and rental properties bunked for the night.

"We hope that in this place we are surely much safer," Quintana Roo Tourism Secretary Marisol Vanegas said. "This is a structure that has withstood other hurricanes."

Delta was forecast to spend several hours lashing the Yucatan Peninsula before moving into the Gulf of Mexico and growing into a "considerably larger" storm before striking the U.S. Gulf coast. People in Louisiana or Mississippi should prepare now for hurricane-force winds to begin hitting their coastlines on Friday, the hurricane centre advised.

Storm-weary Louisians told to prepare

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Delta was expected to make landfall there Friday night or Saturday morning, and the entire state is in the storm's possible path. State and local officials in coastal areas were shoring up levees, sandbagging and taking other protections measures, he said.

Louisiana is still recovering from Hurricane Laura, which ravaged the southwestern region as it roared ashore as a Category 4 storm in August. More than 6,600 Laura evacuees remain in hotels around the state, mainly in New Orleans, because their homes are too heavily damaged to return.

There were reports that the NFL was making contingency plans for the game scheduled in New Orleans for Monday between the Saints and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Workers prepare sandbags for distribution at the Mid-City Library in New Orleans in anticipation of Hurricane Delta on Wednesday. (Kathleen Flynn/Reuters)

'We've practically lived in storms'

Mexico put the commander of its navy in charge of the federal response. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that 5,000 federal troops and emergency personnel were being made available in Quintana Roo to aid in storm efforts.

Juan Carlos Avila arrived at the Technological Institute of Cancun shelter with his seven-months pregnant wife, Joselyn, and their 3-year-old-son, Alexander. He said the staff had made them comfortable and seemed well prepared.

The family, who lives in Miami, had been in Cancun a week and already went through tropical storm Gamma, which soaked the area over the weekend.

"We've practically lived in storms during our stay here in Cancun," Avila said.

People rest in a shelter before the arrival of Hurricane Delta in Cancun. Delta rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico on a course to hammer southeastern Mexico before likely continuing on to the U.S. Gulf Coast later this week. (Victor Ruiz Garcia/The Associated Press)

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