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Tropical storm Karl roars over Mexico's Yucatan

Wed, 09/15/2010 - 7:13pm
GABRIEL ALCOCER - Associated Press Writer - Associated Press

A strong Tropical Storm Karl pushed across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday, lashing beach resorts and inland hamlets with winds and rain, while two powerful hurricanes roared further out in the Atlantic.

Forecasters said Karl is expected to gain strength once it crosses the Yucatan and moves back over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday. Mexico's government issued a hurricane watch for its central coast from La Cruz in Tamaulipas state south to Nautla in Veracruz state. It is expected to reach the Gulf Coast on Saturday.

Karl made landfall Wednesday on Yucatan about 30 miles (50 kilometers) up the coast from the Quintana Roo state capital of Chetumal, with winds of about 65 mph (100 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. It hit about midway between the cruise ship port of Majahual and the coastal town of Xcalak.

Violeta Pineda, who has operated thatch-roof bungalows known as the Hotel Kabah Na for 13 years, said waves were rolling about 25 yards (meters) onto the beach and eating away at a stretch of road that runs along the coast.

"There is a lot of wind," said Pineda, whose hotel is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of Majahual.

Electricity went out briefly around Majahual. But the town took an almost-direct hit from Category 5 Hurricane Dean in 2007 — the third most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to hit land — and "this is nothing in comparison," said Pineda.

Karl's center passed close to the state capital, where there were reports of heavy rain and wind, downed trees and power outages.

The storm then moved inland over tiny rural hamlets and its winds declined to about 40 mph (65 kph).

Assistant state Public Safety Secretary Didier Vazquez said security forces had taken some people from coastal towns to shelters, while others preferred to ride out the storm in their homes.

Authorities on the Yucatan warned of heavy rains but said they saw no need yet for evacuations. The storm threw doubt over the area's celebration of Mexico's bicentennial anniversary of independence from Spain, although there was no immediate decision to cancel festivities.

But Mexico issued a tropical storm watch for the west coast of the Yucatan peninsula — where the storm is expected to re-enter the Gulf — from Ciudad del Carmen north to Celestun.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Hurricane Julia briefly intensified into a powerful Category 4 storm early Wednesday before weakening to a Category 3 with sustained winds of near 115 mph (185 kph.) And Hurricane Igor's top winds also lost steam to 135 mph (215 kph.) Both storms were far from land, but the hurricane center warned that Igor poses a significant risk of rip currents along the U.S. East coast over the weekend.

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Associated Press Writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report

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