Hurricane Delta has ruined dream vacations for thousands of tourists who were forced to pack into crowded emergency shelters rife with risk of spreading coronavirus as fierce winds and torrential rains battered Mexico’s top resort destination in Cancun.
Delta made landfall at about 5.30am as an extremely dangerous category 2 hurricane with winds of up to 110mph downing nearly 100 trees and knocking out power along the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Hotel Association of Cancun said more than 40,000 tourists were evacuated from resorts in and around Cancun on Tuesday night as the hurricane’s winds topped 145mph before it weakened as it approached land.
About 50 miles south of Cancun the four-star Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya was transformed into an emergency shelter as hundreds of guests were packed into common-area rooms like sardines.
Photos and videos posted to social media showed families sitting side-by-side on rows of sun loungers transformed into makeshift cots – with few masks and little social distancing despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As of 1pm CDT Wednesday Delta was centered about 25 miles north of Cancun and was traveling northwest at a speed of between 15 and 20mph as wind speeds decreased slightly to about 100mph.
The US National Hurricane Center in Miami warned of a storm surge that could raise water levels up to 13 feet and bring flash flooding inland.
Civil defense official Luís Alberto Ortega Vázquez said there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries. He said about 39,000 people had been evacuated in the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan, and that about 2,700 people had taken refuge in storm shelters in the two states.
Quintana Roo Gov Carlos Joaquin 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 late Tuesday. He said the area hadn’t seen a storm like it since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
The storm is expected to continue affecting the Mexican coast through the end of the day before veering north toward the US Gulf Coast. Residents living on the shore in west Texas and Louisiana have been told to brace for Delta to arrive as soon as Friday morning as forecasters warned that the storm could be reinvigorated on the trip across the Caribbean.
The Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya was transformed into an emergency shelter when Hurricane Delta approached Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Social media videos showed people packed into common rooms like sardines on small cots
A guest at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya posted this photo on Instagram showing families sitting side-by-side on rows of sun loungers transformed into makeshift cots – with few masks and little social distancing despite the coronavirus pandemic
Hurricane Delta smashed into Mexico on Wednesday morning as thousands of residents and tourists hunkered down in emergency shelters to escape fierce winds and heavy rains battering the resort cities of Cancun and Cozumel. Pictured: A lifeguard tower lays on its side in the sand after it was topped by 110mph in Cancun
Delta toppled dozens of trees and knocked out power in parts of Cancun (pictured) and Cozumel on Wednesday morning
Firemen remove a tree that fell into a street when Hurricane Delta made landfall in Cancun on Wednesday morning
An uprooted tree is seen in the street in Cancun as Delta made landfall at about 5.30am on Wednesday
The hurricane’s winds topped 145mph overnight before it weakened slightly as it approached land and continued moving northwest at about 16mph, according to the US National Hurricane Center in Miami
Forecasts warned of a storm surge that could raise water levels up to 13 feet and bring flash flooding inland. Pictured: A man walks down a beach with high tides on Wednesday morning in Cancun as Delta passed through
A tree lays on its side in the middle of a street after being toppled by Hurricane Delta in Cancun on Wednesday
Delta was centered about 80 miles from Cozumel early Wednesday and moving west-northwest at 16mph
Thousands of Quintana Roo residents and tourists checked in to dozens of government shelters to wait out the storm after everyone the state was put under a 7pm curfew on Tuesday.
Since Monday, local residents have formed long lines at supermarkets and hardware stores to load up on food and supplies to protect their homes.
Panic buying left some shelves empty of basic pantry goods, said Marian Castro, who lives in Cancun’s hotel zone and recalls the destruction wrought by Category 5 Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
‘I’m not scared, because after Hurricane Wilma … destroyed my house, this time we’re more prepared,’ she said, pointing out her anti-cyclone windows.
Throughout the day Tuesday evacuations of low lying areas, islands and the coastline expanded as Delta exploded over warm Caribbean waters, increasing in strength by 80mph in just 24 hours to become a major Category 4 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.
More than 40,000 tourists in Cancun and neighboring resorts were evacuated, the head of the area’s hotel association, Roberto Citron, told AFP.
Tourists play cards in a shelter prior to the arrival of the Hurricane Delta, at the Technological Institute of Cancun, Mexico last night
Tourists rest in a shelter prior to the arrival of Hurricane Delta, at the Technological Institute of Cancun, Mexico yesterday
This image obtained this morning from weather.com shows a strong Hurricane Delta set to hit Cancun before 6am
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 U.S. Gulf coast later in the week
A damaged plaza is seen in Cancun as Hurricane Delta passed through on Wednesday morning
A damaged boat floats in a flooded marina after Hurricane Delta tore through Cancun on Wednesday morning
Early Wednesday, some 300 guests and nearly 200 staff from the Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel awoke in the sweltering classrooms of the Technological Institute of Cancun campus where they had been moved the day before.
All of the windows had been covered with plywood so they couldn’t see what was happening, but they said the howling winds started around 2am and there had been heavy rain.
The power – and with it the air conditioning – had been knocked out early Wednesday so it was steamy as tourists awoke from theused their cell phone light to get up and make their way for a first cup of coffee.
‘The hard part has been the waiting,’ Ana Karen Rodríguez of Monterrey told the Associated Press. She and a friend arrived in Cancun Tuesday morning and by afternoon were shuttled to the shelter. She said the hotel had planned well. ‘It’s been good. I feel comfortable actually.’
Photos showed the guests – all wearing masks – playing cards, watching videos on their phones and calling residents on Tuesday night as they tried to get comfortable in the less-than-ideal surroundings.
‘The hotel has done a good job of making sure that we were provided for and that we’re going to be safe here in this place, so we don’t have any concerns at all,’ said Shawn Sims, a tourist from Dallas sheltering with his wife, Rashonda Cooper, and their sons, seven-year-old Liam and four-year-old Easton.
‘This is my first (hurricane) experience, but I see that these guys have a plan and they know what they’re doing,’ Sims said.
Winds lash palm trees in a Cancun parking lot as Delta passed over the Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday morning
A soldier stands guard along an avenue in Tulum on Wednesday morning as Hurricane Delta carved a path to the northwest
A man takes pictures of the sea after Hurricane Delta caused tides to ride substantially on Wednesday morning in Cancun
Debris is seen strewn across an empty plaza in Cancun after Hurricane Delta tore through on Wednesday morning
A fallen power line rests against a wall in Cancun as thousands of people in the region lost electricity on Wednesday morning
Delta’s winds of up to 110 miles per hour caused a sign to fly into a storefront, shattering its windows
A toppled tree rests on top of a car in a parking lot in Cancun on Wednesday morning as Hurricane Delta moved through
Winds bent a sign for a Starbucks coffee shop and left debris scattered across its deck on Wednesday morning
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.
At the Cancun Convention Center, 400 tourists from hotels and rental properties bunked for the night.
‘We hope that in this place we are surely much safer,’ Quintana Roo Tourism Secretary Marisol Vanegas said. ‘This is a structure that has withstood other hurricanes.’
A man takes a video with his phone at a beach as Hurricane Delta approaches Cancun on Tuesday
People queue to pay for goods at a supermarket, in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Delta, in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
Tourists arrive to depart from Cancun’s international airport in Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo, as Hurricane Delta approaches in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
Hotel employees carry a box with jugs of juice from a passenger bus at a school, which will be used as a temporary shelter for tourists, in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Delta, in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
Members of the Mexican Army prepare to move towards the municipalities of Valladolid and Tizimin, in Merida, Yucatan state, in preparation for the arrival of Hurrican Delta yesterday
Clouds over an empty beach in Cancun are seen from the window of an airplane, as Hurricane Delta approaches in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
A hotel employee arranges bottled water at the entrance of a school, which will be used as a temporary shelter for tourists, in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Delta, in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
Boats sit closer to the shore after they were secured by fishermen preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Delta in Puerto Juarez, Cancun, Mexico yesterday
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.
Louisiana Gov John Bel Edwards said Delta was expected to make landfall there Friday night or Saturday morning and the entire state is in the storm’s possible path. State and local officials in coastal areas were shoring up levees, sandbagging and taking other protections measures, he said.
Louisiana is still recovering from Hurricane Laura, which ravaged the southwestern region as it roared ashore as a Category 4 storm in August. More than 6,600 Laura evacuees remain in hotels around the state, mainly in New Orleans, because their homes are too heavily damaged to return.
Business and hotel employees work to protect their businesses before the arrival of the Hurricane Delta, in Cancun, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico yesterday
A hotel worker from the Fiesta Americana Condesa resort covers a window with plywood at a shelter set up at the Technological Institute of Cancun, as he prepares for the landfall of Hurricane Delta, in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
Tourists rests on the floor of the Cancun Convention Center, turned into an evacuation center, ahead of the arrival of Delta hurricane, in the touristic city of Cancun, Quintana Roo state, Mexico, late last night
People line up to buy gas prior to the arrival of Hurricane Delta in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
People rest in a shelter prior to the arrival of Hurricane Delta in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
Locals buy boards to protect their homes in preparation for the arrival of Delta Huracan in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, Mexico yesterday
A general view shows an empty beach as Hurricane Delta approaches Cancun, Mexico yesterday
Clouds over part of Cancun are seen from the window of an airplane, as Hurricane Delta approaches in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
Mexico put the commander of its navy in charge of the federal response. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that 5,000 federal troops and emergency personnel were being made available in Quintana Roo to aid in storm efforts.
Local and state officials urged residents to move to shelters.
Juan Carlos Avila arrived at the Technological Institute of Cancun shelter with his seven-months pregnant wife, Joselyn, and their 3-year-old-son, Alexander. He said the staff had made them comfortable and seemed well prepared.
The family, which lives in Miami, had been in Cancun a week and already went through Tropical Storm Gamma, which soaked the area over the weekend.
‘We’ve practically lived in storms during our stay here in Cancun,’ Avila said.
Tourists rest in a shelter prior to the arrival of Hurricane Delta, at the Technological Institute of Cancun, Mexico yesterday
People board up a restaurant in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Delta, in Cancun, Mexico yesterday
The Yucatan peninsula was hit on the weekend by Hurricane Gamma, a smaller storm that nonetheless damaged property and forced restaurants and attractions to close, including the famed Chichen Itza pyramids.
The region at the heart of Mexico’s tourist industry has suffered various setbacks in recent years, most recently from the coronavirus pandemic.
Before that, the coast known as the Riviera Maya was affected by swaths of Sargasso seaweed on its pristine beaches.
Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Rio and the Island of Youth also hunkered down ahead of tropical storm conditions, with schools closed and coastal areas evacuated.