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Dangerous Hurricane Delta roars toward Mexico’s Yucatan, heads for US

Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Delta rapidly intensified into a dangerous
Category 4 storm with 145 mph (230 kph) winds Tuesday while following a
course to hammer southeastern Mexico and then continue on to the U.S.
Gulf Coast later in the week.

The worst of the immediate impact
was expected along the resort-studded northeastern tip of Mexico’s
Yucatan Peninsula, where hurricane conditions were expected Tuesday
night and landfall early Wednesday.

From Tulum to Cancun,
tourism-dependent communities still soaked by the remnants of Tropical
Storm Gamma could bear the brunt of the storm.

In Cancun, long
lines snaked from supermarkets, lumber yards and gas stations as people
scrambled for provisions under mostly sunny skies. Officials warned that
residents should have several days of water and food on hand. Boat
owners lined up at public ramps to pull their craft out of the water.

evacuated thousands of tourists and residents from coastal areas along
its Riviera Maya. Some 160 shelters were opened in Cancun alone.

Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquín said Tuesday night that the government had made
preparations, but “it is a strong, powerful hurricane.” He said the
area hadn’t seen one like it since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

hotels that had exemptions because their structures were rated for major
hurricanes planned to shelter their guests in place and testing their
emergency systems.

When the alarm blared at the Fiesta Americana
Condesa hotel, Lizeth Elena Garza Hernandez rushed out of her room
carrying her 10-month-old daughter, Hannah. She had arrived Sunday from
the northern Mexican border city of Reynosa with her husband, 4-year-old
daughter and her parents-in-law.

“I’m scared because we don’t know how it could impact here, because we’ve never been in a situation like it,” she said.

Potts, a deputy sheriff from Denver, Colorado, took care of his
3-year-old son near a kiddie pool while his wife attended an emergency
information session about the hurricane. The hotel offered to shelter
guests in a ballroom, but a short time later after the storm intensified
the hotel told them they would all be moved to a university in Cancun.

“The hurricane kind of popped up overnight and we just want to get it over with and go back to the beach,” Potts said.

official definition of rapid intensification of a hurricane is 35 mph
in 24 hours. Delta increased in strength 80 mph, more than doubling from
a 60 mph storm at 2 pm EDT Monday to 140 mph at 2 pm EDT Tuesday.

Tourism Minister Marisol Vanegas said there were 40,900 tourists in all
of Quintana Roo, far below normal numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The area’s economy was devastated by months of pandemic-caused

At the Moon Palace resort just south of Cancun, hundreds
of guests from Moon Palace hotels on Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and
beachfront rooms were being moved into a hurricane shelter at the
resort’s large exposition center. Bedding, food and entertainment were
being provided, said Cessie Cerrato, the vice president of public
relations for Palace Resorts.

“It’s massive,” Cerrato said of the
convention hall. “It’s super safe and further away from the water.”
Given the coronavirus pandemic, the hall will allow safe distancing, and
face masks will be required for guests.

The state ordered people
off the streets by 7 p.m. and landfall was expected between Puerto
Morelos and Playa del Carmen just south of Cancun early Wednesday.

south of Puerto Morelos in Playa del Carmen, Zena Koudsi from
Charlotte, North Carolina was taking a final walk along the beach before
Delta hit.

“Never been to a hurricane area,” Koudsi said. “Never
been to Mexico. I was expecting maybe more sun, less waves, but, you
know, we’re trying to make the best of it.”

Mexican President
Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday that 5,000 federal troops and
emergency personnel were being made available in Quintana Roo to aid in
storm efforts.

“I honestly don’t see much that will stop it until
it reaches Yucatan, due to low vertical wind shear, high deep-layer
moisture, and the very warm and deep waters of the northwestern
Caribbean,” said Eric Blake, a forecaster at the National Hurricane

Delta was predicted to arrive with an extremely dangerous
storm surge raising water levels by as much as 9 to 13 feet (2.7 to 4
meters), accompanied by large and dangerous waves and flash flooding

The storm was centered about 180 miles (290 kilometers)
east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, on Tuesday evening and it was moving
west-northwest at 17 mph (28 kph).

Once Delta moves on from
Mexico, it is expected to regain Category 4 strength over the Gulf of
Mexico as it approaches the U.S. coast, where landfall around Friday
would be followed by heavy rainfall across the southeastern United

“While there is large uncertainty in the track and
intensity forecasts, there is a significant risk of dangerous storm
surge, wind, and rainfall hazards along the coast from Louisiana to the
western Florida Panhandle beginning Thursday night or Friday,” the
Hurricane Center said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Louisiana Gov.
John Bel Edwards decreed states of emergency for their states Tuesday,
allowing officials to seek federal aid more quickly if needed later.

communities on the Alabama coast were still clearing away the damage
from Hurricane Sally, which made landfall at Gulf Shores on Sept. 16.

Cancun, Mexican tourists Stephanie Vazquez and husband Fernando
Castillo took one last dip in the pool at the Fiesta Americana hotel
with their 2-year-old son, Leonardo.

Vazquez said she was “nervous, worried,” about Delta, “because it is the first time I’ve come here with my son.”

“I feel there is a certain safety that the hotel has provided up to now, I know that we will be well protected, but you never can be 100% sure, because it is nature, and you don’t know what will happen,” she said.

Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington, Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala., Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, La., David Koenig in Dallas, Tomas Stargardter in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.