Hurricane Emily weakens, threatens northern Mexico with flooding as it heads inland
SAN FERNANDO, Mexico – Hurricane Emily blasted northeast Mexico with powerful winds and rains Wednesday, demolishing homes, triggering floods and forcing evacuations on both sides of the Mexican-U.S. border.The week-old hurricane packing winds of 125 mph came ashore before dawn near San Fernando, about 75 miles south of the border, and spread destruction even as it steadily weakened to tropical storm strength by late in the day.There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but thousands of residents and tourists were ordered to evacuate homes and hotels along the Gulf of Mexico. In southern Texas, about 4,000 people fled to 14 shelters.The storm was closing in on Monterrey, the country’s third-largest city, and officials there set up shelters to prepare for flash flooding.Wednesday night, Emily had winds of 70 mph and was expected to slow to a tropical depression by Wednesday night, forecasters said.Near San Fernando, 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 caused by 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 said his home survived the storm, but a shed where he stored his fishing equipment and boat had been reduced to scraps of wood.Eugenio Hernandez, governor of Tamaulipas state, which includes San Fernando, said officials were still accessing damage. He said some people fled their homes Wednesday night because of a rain-swollen river.Emily’s landfall Wednesday marked the second time in three days the storm hit Mexico. Last weekend, Emily drenched the south coast of Jamaica, killing four people and washing away at least three homes.Officials in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas, said 18,000 people had been evacuated Tuesday from 20 seaside communities – including nearly everyone from the beachside community of Carbonera, a fishing hamlet that appeared to have taken a direct hit from the storm. Many small communities apparently were cut off by the storm.Carbonera was considered too unsafe for even emergency officials to remain behind, but at least 10 people waited out Emily without leaving town.”I stayed to guard the little I had,” said 55-year-old Cornelio San Martin, who said he sent the rest of his family to a shelter in San Fernando, but complained that officials there gave them nothing to eat.Another who refused to leave was Jose Mario Lara, a 52-year-old fisherman who stayed with his family in a tin-roofed house.He said Emily was slightly less frightening than when Hurricane Gilbert tore through the area in 1988, which caused 300 deaths in Mexico and the Caribbean.”Because of Gilbert people did not resist” the evacuation orders, said City Councilor Laurencio Garcia.Also Wednesday, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Mexico, or Pemex, prepared to reinstall more than 16,000 workers who had been evacuated from offshore oil installations in the northern Gulf of Mexico as Hurricane Emily swept toward the U.S.-Mexico border.Although the storm halted production temporarily, it didn’t appear to have caused any major damage in the southern Gulf.