Hurricane Delta, a slightly weakened but still dangerous category four storm, barrelled towards Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula with winds of 215 km/h for an expected landfall south of the Cancun resort late tomorrow.
Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquín said the state government had prepared, but warned residents and tourists that "it is a strong, powerful hurricane," though he considered it a good sign that Delta had weakened a bit. He said the area hadn't seen a storm like it since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Delta's top winds had peaked at 230 km/h.
Forecasters warned it was still an extremely dangerous storm, saying it threatened to bring a life-threatening storm surge that could raise water levels 2.7 to 4m, along with large and dangerous waves and flash flooding inland.
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Delta was centered 220km from Cozumel and moving west-northwest at 26 km/h.
Thousands of Quintana Roo residents and tourists waited for the storm in dozens of government shelters. Everyone was ordered off the streets.
The evacuations of low lying areas, islands and the coastline expanded as Delta exploded over warm Caribbean waters into a major hurricane. Much of Cancun's hotel zone was cleared out as guests were bused to inland shelters. In Cancun alone, the government opened 160 shelters.
State tourism officials said more than 40,000 tourists were in Quintana Roo, a fraction of what would normally be there. Delta's damage comes on top of months of pandemic-induced lockdown that has devastated the state's tourism industry.
Delta was forecast to spend several hours lashing the Yucatan Peninsula before moving into the Gulf of Mexico and re-strengthening before a strike on the US Gulf coast later in the week.