Hurricane Grace grounded flights and forced tourists to spend the night in shelters on part of Mexico’s Caribbean coastline before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved inland yesterday.
Grace made landfall before dawn as a Category One hurricane – the lowest on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale – on the Yucatan Peninsula near the town of Tulum, famed for its Mayan temples.
It lost strength as it churned across the peninsula and was clocking maximum sustained winds of 100kph (65mph) at 1500 GMT, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami said.
On Wednesday, as the hurricane approached Mexico, more than 100 flights to or from the major resort of Cancun were cancelled, and tourists in Tulum were told to leave their hotel rooms.
In total, more than 300 people were evacuated and the storm passed the Riviera Maya coastline without any loss of life, said Carlos Joaquin, governor of the southeastern state of Quintana Roo.
Cancun’s international airport was reopened yesterday but ports remained closed, Joaquin said on Twitter.
Electricity was cut off, affecting almost 150,000 people, but as soon as the storm passes, repairs will be carried out to restore supply, Joaquin said.
Cancun’s hotel zone was largely deserted at dawn as intense wind and rain caused some damage to structures on the beach, which was pounded by strong waves.
In the neighbouring state of Yucatan, the storm toppled trees in the city of Valladolid and damaged some of the less sturdy houses, according to images released by local authorities.
After it crosses the Yucatan, the storm is expected to move over the southwest Gulf of Mexico before hitting the eastern state of Veracruz, where a hurricane warning was in effect.
“Re-intensification is likely after the centre reaches the Gulf of Mexico,” the NHC said.
“Grace is forecast to be a hurricane when it makes its second landfall on the mainland coast of Mexico late today or early tomorrow. Rapid weakening is expected after Grace moves inland over central Mexico,” it predicted.
Gusty winds and heavy rains would continue to buffet the Yucatan Peninsula, forecasters said.
“Heavy rainfall from Grace will likely result in areas of flash and urban flooding, and will also be capable of producing mudslides,” it said.
The storm surge will be accompanied by “large and destructive waves” near the coast, the NHC warned.
On Wednesday, businesses on the Riviera Maya had boarded up windows, while fishermen and tour operators hauled their boats onto land in preparation for the storm’s arrival.
Authorities in Quintana Roo had declared a red alert and opened 85 shelters for people who needed refuge from the storm.
Tourists wait to depart from Cancun’s international airport before the arrival of Hurricane Grace, in Cancun, Mexico.