A weakened Hurricane Emily triggered flooding outside Mexico’s third-largest city last night after demolishing homes, toppling trees and sparking thousands of evacuations on the northern Gulf Coast.
Emily had weakened to a tropical storm, but was still moving inland with torrential downpours and stiff winds that washed out roads and highways and caused flooding in and around Monterrey, whose metro area is home to three million.
Authorities cancelled dozens of flights at the international airport and set up shelters to accommodate evacuees and anyone whose homes were damaged.
The hurricane had 125 mph winds in the pre-dawn hours, when its eye roared ashore near San Fernando, 75 miles south of the US-Mexico border.
There were no reports of deaths or major injuries here or elsewhere, but the wind peeled metal roofs off houses and flooded fields, making the highway look like a bridge across a sea.
Outside of town, three corrugated metal grain silos had crumbled to the ground and lay next to another which had been destroyed when Hurricane Gilbert tore through the area in 1988.
Eugenio Hernandez, governor of Tamaulipas state, which includes San Fernando, said officials were still accessing damage but that his office had not received reports of deaths. He said some people had to be evacuated last night because of a rain-swollen river.
One of the hardest-hit areas was the fishing village of Carbonera, where many of those who had been evacuated returned to find their homes destroyed. Lakes of flood waters were everywhere.
“The hurricane finished us,” said Javier Hernandez Galvin, a 45-year-old fisherman who, because of a shortage of clothing, was barefoot, wearing only pink shorts and an old blue t-shirt.
Galvin’s home survived the storm, but a shed where he stored his fishing equipment and boat had been reduced to scraps of wood.
Emily was losing strength as it moved west across northern Mexico late last night. But authorities in Nuevo Leon state, which includes Monterrey, declared a red alert, anticipating more Emily-related flooding.
In San Fernando, home to about 60,000 and slightly inland from the Gulf coast, the storm shredded metal roofs and shattered a bank’s plate-glass windows, leaving window blinds to dance in the wind.
On the Yucatan Peninsula, Emily ripped roofs off resort hotels and stranded thousands of tourists along the popular Mayan Riviera, which includes the resort of Cancun.
But by yesterday, tourists who had decided not to cancel their vacations were returning slowly to the beaches as many hotels announced that they were reopening after suffering only minor damages.