Strong Tropical Storm Gamma drenches Cancun area of Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tropical Storm Gamma hit the resort-dotted coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula at near-hurricane force on Saturday, flooding streets, knocking down vulnerable buildings and stranding people trying to return from outlying islands.

The storm came ashore near Tulum with maximum sustained winds of nearly 70 mph (110 kph) — 4 mph (9 kph short of hurricane force), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

By night, winds had dipped to 60 mph (95 kph), and it was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) north-northwest of Tulum, moving to the northwest at 7 mph (11 kph).

Forecasters said the biggest threat to the area, which recently reopened to tourism after a pandemic shutdown, was likely the torrential rain and possible flooding, with as much as 10 to 15 inches (250 to 375 mm) possible over the northeastern part of the peninsula.

The state’s tourism department reported Friday on Twitter that more than 41,000 tourists were present in Quintana Roo, with hotels in Cancun and Cozumel already at more than 30% occupancy.

Social media accounts of Quintana Roo’s state government showed police removing people from vulnerable shacks and removing downed trees.

Numerous local news media published images of a thatch-roof, open-sided seaside church, Maria Star of the Sea just north of Cancun, collapsed by the storm.

The storm forced suspension of sea ferry services between Cancun and Playa del Carmen with the islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres.

The storm was projected to emerge from the northern edge of the Yucatan on Sunday and then curve toward the west-southwest into the lower Gulf of Mexico, flinging heavy rains across a large part of southern Mexico and Central America.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Marie began to weaken Saturday over the open Pacific.

Marie was a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) Friday evening, according to the Hurricane Center, but winds dipped to Category 3 status, 115 mph (185 kph) by Saturday evening.

It was centered about 1,180 miles (1,900 kilometers) west of the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and was headed to the northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).

Forecasters said it shouldn’t pose a threat to land.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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