Mexico

Chantal douses Yucatan Peninsula

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News and Press Release
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Posted
Originally published
Written by Stephanie Kriner Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org, with news reports
Nearly a hurricane, Tropical Storm Chantal barreled into the Yucatan Peninsula Monday night (Aug. 20) and continued unloading torrential rains on Tuesday. The storm, which is expected to weaken as it crosses the peninsula, blew ashore south of Cancun, from where 2,500 people had evacuated.

As Chantal weakens, forecasters said heavy rains would continue in the region throughout the day. Rainfall totaling 15 to 20 inches was expected with isolated higher amounts possible along and near the path of the storm. Flooding was also expected, especially near coastal areas.

At of 8 a.m. EDT, Chantal had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was moving in a west-northwest direction across the peninsula, according to the National Weather Service. Chantal had weakened slightly after making landfall at 10 p.m. EDT Monday, when its maximum sustained winds reached 70 mph, just 4 mph short of hurricane strength.

The storm is expected to weaken further as it crawls over land. However, if it remains on its present track, Chantal will swirl into the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico by Wednesday and could strengthen once again, the National Weather Service said.

As of Tuesday morning, tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 175 miles. The center of the storm was located about 35 miles west-southwest of Chetumal, Mexico.

As the storm swept ashore, coastal residents fled to shelters Monday night in Chetumal, about 18 miles away, according to Mexican government emergency officials. Still, shelter populations were relatively low. A Chetumal technical school set up to house 500 people had just 112 people registered even after the storm hit, the Assoicated Press reported.

The Mexican navy reported the storm churned up 13-foot waves. As the storm pushed across the coast, it downed power lines and scattered tree limbs in the streets, but caused far less damage than feared. State radio and television repeatedly urged people to stay indoors, to keep a two-day supply of clean water and flashlight batteries and to avoid getting drunk, the Associated Press reported.

Two fishermen remained lost at sea on Tuesday after ignoring warnings to avoid open seas during the storm, government officials told CNN.

State officials closed all schools Monday and Tuesday and said some in the south of the state might be closed longer. Boats were ordered to port and smaller vessels were taken out of the water.

Offshore activities were restricted in Cancun, but the brunt of the storm passed south, producing gray skies, some rain and wind, but little danger for thousands of tourists. As a precaution, Carnival Cruise Lines diverted all of its Caribbean tours to the port of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico.

Michael Sheehan, spokesman for Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, told the Associated Press that his company had diverted only one cruise ship, which left Saturday bound for Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cozumel. It was rerouted to the eastern Caribbean, Sheehan said.

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DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.