Cancún, Mexico - Grace barreled westwards in the Gulf of Mexico Friday as it regained hurricane strength ahead of an expected second landfall later in the day, having already torn through Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
The hurricane struck the coast of Mexico before dawn on Thursday as a Category One storm -- the lowest on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale -- near the town of Tulum, famed for its Mayan temples.
After losing strength, Grace’s winds whipped back up to 85 miles (135 kilometers) an hour early Friday, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). “Air force hurricane hunters find Grace has strengthened into a hurricane,” the NHC said, maintaining a warning zone stretching from Puerto Veracruz to Cabo Rojo.
“The center of Grace is forecast to move across the southwestern Gulf of Mexico today, and then make landfall along the coast of mainland Mexico this evening or tonight,” it said, adding the system was likely to strengthen throughout the day. As of 1200 GMT, Grace was centered about 185 miles (300 kilometers) northeast of Veracruz, and heading west toward more fishing villages and resort towns at a speed of 15 mph. “After landfall, Grace should weaken rapidly as it moves into the mountains of central Mexico.” As the hurricane approached Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula earlier in the week, more than 6,000 tourists and residents were evacuated to storm shelters across the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, according to local authorities.The storm passed the Riviera Maya coastline without any loss of life, said Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquin. He said water and electricity were being restored across the state. Workers were seen clearing up fallen branches and other debris in Tulum but the town escaped major damage. “The scare is over and luckily everything turned out okay,” said Sandra Rodriguez, a 39-year-old Argentinian tourist visiting Cancun. Rodriguez admitted she had been worried because she was not used to such storms.