Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean Heads Straight for Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

The state of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is under a state of emergency as Hurricane Dean barrels toward the country after hitting Jamaica on the weekend. This morning the US National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The storm is an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane, with the potential to reach a Category 5 within the next 24 hours. The Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale rates hurricanes from 1 to 5, Category 5 being the most dangerous with winds of over 156 mph. Hurricane Dean is currently packing winds of nearly 150 mph.

The Yucatan Peninsula is watching the storm carefully and evacuating the thousands of tourists from the luxury hotels along Cancun and the Mayan Riviera to beat the storm, which is expected to make landfall in Mexico within the next 24 hours. One source reported that as of today nearly all tourists have already left the region. The storm is reminiscent of Hurricane Wilma, the Category 5 hurricane that devastated Cancun and the Mayan Riviera in October 2005. Wilma was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin and some hotels in Cancun are still recovering from the storm, which caused $3 billion in damage.

The US National Hurricane Center is predicting an above-normal hurricane season this year, estimating between seven and nine hurricanes in the Atlantic, with three to five of them becoming a Category 3 or higher. Hurricane Dean marks the first major hurricane so far this year. Hurricane season usually peaks between August and October.

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