Ida becomes hurricane a 2nd time off Mexico coast
Associated Press Writer
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) – Ida grew into a hurricane for a second time as it roared over the Caribbean on a path that could take it between Mexico’s resort-studded Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba before heading for the southern United States.
Tour operators and fishermen along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, including Cancun, pulled their boats out of the water Saturday in anticipation of rains and winds from Ida’s outer bands. But the hurricane appeared unlikely to make direct hits on either Mexico or Cuba, with its forecast track passing over the Yucatan Channel that separates the countries on Sunday.
Cancun’s beaches were empty on Saturday as rain began pelting down, but tourists walked the streets under umbrellas or improvised rain ponchos. Most appeared unconcerned.
“We’re not too worried. I’ll get some good pictures,” said Steve Rydgren, a 30-year-old photographer from Seattle, as he arrived in Cancun for a one-year anniversary vacation with his 29-year-old wife Stacy.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ida’s winds had picked up to 90 mph (150 kph), making it a Category 1 storm. Ida plowed into Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast on Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane, laying waste to 500 homes and damaging bridges, power lines, roads and public buildings, before weakening into a tropical storm.
Forecasters predicted Ida would weaken over the Gulf of Mexico to tropical storm strength and possibly brush the U.S. Gulf Coast next week. The hurricane center forecast that Ida could strengthen to Category 2 later Sunday.
Realtor Beth Conway, 41, from Sacramento, California, said she was happy just to be in Cancun.
“We don’t really care if it’s rainy or sunny,” Conway said as she gathered her luggage at the Cancun airport. “We were just hoping they weren’t going to cancel our flight.”
Mexico issued a hurricane warning for parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, from Playa del Carmen to Cabo Catoche, including Cancun and Cozumel. meaning that hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours.
Tropical-storm warnings remain in effect for the Yucatan Peninsula from Punta Allen northward to San Felipe, and western Cuba and Grand Cayman Island.
Authorities started up a reporting system used to locate tourists and plan potential evacuations or shelters. Quintana Roo state Tourism Director Sara Latife Ruiz said there were about 36,000 foreign and Mexican tourists in Cancun.
“We can locate them and if necessary, take them to some temporary shelter,” said Latife Ruiz. “Right now, no flights have been canceled … and there has been no evacuation of tourists.”
Early Sunday, Ida was centered about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel and moving northwest at about 10 mph (17 kph).
Juan Granados, assistant director of civil defense, said seven storm shelters were being readied on Cozumel, five on Isla Mujeres and seven on Holbox, an island north of the peninsula. Statewide, dozens more were being readied for use if needed.
Authorities suspended fishing along part of the coast and told tour operators who offer reef snorkeling and diving excursions to stay in port, Granados added.
“We’ll get some wind and rain, but that’s about it,” said James Watts, 34, part of a family from British Columbia, Canada that runs The Summer Place Inn and a real estate firm on the island of Cozumel, near Cancun. Employees at the inn weren’t taping up or boarding over windows, but Watts said small boats would be pulled ashore.
Popular Mayan sites such as the seaside ruins of Tulum were to remain open, but employees worked to clean up debris that could become a hazard in high winds, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement.
John Cangialosi, a specialist at the Hurricane Center, said that as Ida heads north across the Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to meet a cold front that is moving south – making longer-term forecasts complicated for now.
Regardless of how the cold front affects the tropical system, Cangialosi said residents on the north Gulf Coast can expect lots of wind and heavy rain.
Cuba’s national Meteorological Center said it did not expect any direct impact from the storm, but noted it could cause heavy rains in the western province of Pinar del Rio.