Hurricane Dean Heads Back to Mexico

Hurricane Dean is now heading toward Mexico's mainland, after leaving the Yucatan peninsula remarkably unscathed. Thousands of people fled coastal cities ahead of the storm.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Hurricane Dean is back over open water, and it's strengthened a bit. Winds are again up to 100 miles per hour. It is hitting a second part of Mexico's coastline - the state of Veracruz. And its battering offshore platforms where most of Mexico's oil wealth comes from. So far, no deaths have been reported in Mexico, and the country's tourist infrastructure was largely spared.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has this update from Mexico City.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Schools in the state of Veracruz have been closed, and according of the state governor there at least 10,000 people have been evacuated on the mainland. Veracruz is a mountainous region and there are fears of mudslides.

Already in the nearby state of Campeche reports say that 70 percent of the oil city of Playa del Carmen has been flooded. For now, worries are centering though on Mexico's offshore oilrigs.

After leaving the Yucatan Peninsula, Dean moved into the Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico. That's home to more than 100 oil platforms, three major oil-exporting ports and the Cantarell oil field, Mexico's most productive. Operations have been shut down and the platforms evacuated. Over 18,000 Pemex staff have been removed and 80 percent of Mexico's crude production was shut down ahead of the arrival of Dean. That's greatly reduced Mexico's daily production of 2.7 million barrels of oil and 2.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day.

Dean crashed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 5 storm, one of the strongest on record, but it luckily moved over largely uninhabited areas.

Still, not everyone came away unscathed. Hundreds of homes in the Caribbean town of Majahual reportedly collapsed.

Dean also washed away about half of the immense concrete pier that was used to dock cruise ships there. In Cancun, one of the beaches was washed away, a blow to one of the busiest tourist destinations in Mexico.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. NPR News, Mexico City.

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Dean Downgraded After Second Hit on Mexico

Hurricane Dean has been downgraded to a tropical storm after battering the Mexican coast for a second time on Wednesday.

Dean came ashore in Veracruz state as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.

The storm was much weakened since it hit the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 5 hurricane on Tuesday, but it still forced the evacuation of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and thousands had to flee their homes near Tecolutla.

Dean weakened as it pushed inland, bringing heavy rains to a region that saw hundreds die due to flooding and landslides in 1999.

There have still been no reports of deaths in the Yucatan Peninsula, although officials said they have not yet been able to determine how isolated Mayan communities fared in the sparsely populated jungle.

Thirteen people died as Dean swept through the Caribbean, brushing past Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Forecasters said Dean was the third most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in recorded history when it hit the Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday. It toppled trees, power lines and houses, but the popular resorts of Cancun and Cozumel escaped largely unscathed.

Greatly weakened from that overland journey, Dean moved across the Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico, home to more than 100 oil platforms, three major oil exporting ports and the Cantarell oil field, Mexico's most productive.

The entire field's operations were shut down just ahead of the storm, reducing daily production by 2.7 million barrels of oil and 2.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Seventy percent of the oil city of Ciudad del Carmen was flooded, Campeche state Gov. Jorge Carlos Hurtado told Mexico's Televisa network.

The last tourists departed Tuesday from the beaches of Tecolutla, while residents boarded up doors and windows on hotels facing the beach.

South of Veracruz state, the storm surge flooded Ciudad del Carmen, a city of 120,000 people.

"It wasn't minutes of terror. It was hours," said Catharine Morales, 30, a native of Montreal, Canada, who has lived in Majahual for a year. "The walls felt like they were going to explode."

Hundreds of homes in the Caribbean town of Majahual collapsed as Dean crumpled steel girders, splintered wooden structures and washed away about half of the immense concrete dock that transformed the sleepy fishing village into Mexico's second-busiest cruise ship destination.

The storm surge covered almost the entire town in waist-deep sea water, said fishermen Jorge Gonzalez, 29. He found refuge in the back room of a beachfront store whose steel security curtains were blown out and helped keep his dog from drowning.

Hurricane-force winds could strike as far north to La Cruz, about 200 miles south of Texas, officials with the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The storm is not expected to have an impact on Texas, despite earlier fears.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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