MEXICO CITY - Hurricane Isidore continued to batter Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula yesterday, leaving at least three people dead, forcing tens of thousands to leave their homes and prompting oil-rig workers to flee platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
The hurricane tore off metal roofs and toppled antennas as it moved inland, where it was downgraded to a tropical storm. As of 4 p.m. local time, the storm was 50 miles south-southeast of Merida, Mexico, and moving northeastward, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. As much as 40 inches of rain fell in cities including Progreso, a main port of Yucatan state.
The storm is expected to again become a hurricane today and head north toward Texas and Louisiana, Hurricane Center meteorologist Michael Formosa said. Isidore could pack winds of as much as 130 mph with tides as high as 12 feet above normal levels later this week, said Hurricane Center spokesman Frank Lepore.
In Mexico, one person died of a heart attack, a security worker at the Cancun international airport was electrocuted and an emergency response worker was killed in a car crash. Officials were evacuating people in the state of Campeche, and 1,500 people have been placed in emergency shelters, said Fernando Romero, a spokesman for Mexico's emergency response agency.
"There was damage to coastal towns, and a large number of trees and phones lines were torn down," Romero said. "Windows in some buildings were smashed and roads have been damaged."
When it hit the Yucatan, Isidore had sustained winds of as high as 125 mph, a Category 3 hurricane on a scale of 1 to 5. "A slow northwestward motion is expected to begin later today or tonight," according to the National Hurricane Center.
"You could see considerable damage and flooding, going toward Galveston [Texas] and New Orleans," said Matt Rogers, a meteorologist at Earth Satellite Corp. in Rockville, Montgomery County. "The main concern is whether this storm will be able to get back out over the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico."
Mexican officials evacuated more than 50,000 residents in the coastal area, which includes the resort city of Cancun and Cozumel island. The evacuations are part of an emergency response plan drawn up in 1997 after Hurricane Pauline battered the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, killing more than 100.
Isidore pounded western Cuba late last week, mostly on the Isle of Youth, dropping nearly 24 inches of rain.