TECOLUTLA, Mexico (AP) – A sprawling Hurricane Dean slammed into Mexico for the second time in as many days Wednesday and quickly stretched across to the Pacific Ocean, then weakened as it drenched the central mountains with rain that flooded houses along the coast.
Coming ashore with top sustained winds of 100 mph, Dean’s center hit the tourism and fishing town of Tecolutla shortly after civil defense workers loaded the last evacuees onto army trucks and headed to inland shelters.
There was no escaping the wide storm’s hurricane-force winds, which lashed at a 60-mile stretch of the coast in Veracruz state.
“You can practically feel the winds, they’re so strong,” Maria del Pilar Garcia said by telephone from inside the hotel she manages in Tuxpan, a town some 40 miles north of where Dean made landfall. “I hope this passes quickly and the rivers don’t overflow.”
Sounds of crashing metal prompted farmer Moises Aguilar to take a dangerous risk in Monte Gordo, 20 miles down the coast from Tecolutla. At the height of the storm, he dashed outside his house, about 300 yards from the sea, and struggled against the wind as his neighbor’s roof ripped apart.
“We’ve closed the curtains because we don’t want to see what is going on out there,” Aguilar said, his voice nearly drowned out by another crash. “I think that’s more metal roofing from my garage.”
At 5 p.m. EDT, Dean was 40 miles west of the inland city of Poza Rica, heading westward at 17 mph.
Mexico had suspended offshore oil production and shut down its only nuclear power plant as tens of thousands headed for higher ground. The state oil company said there was no known damage to any of its production facilities on shore or in the Gulf of Mexico.
Dean struck land Wednesday as a Category 2 storm after regaining some of the force it unleashed on the Yucatan. Its first strike on the peninsula Tuesday as a Category 5 tempest with 165 mph winds was the third most intense Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall.