Hurricane Delta becomes extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane


Hurricane Delta rapidly intensified into a dangerous Category 4 storm with 145 mph (230 kph) winds Tuesday while following a course to hammer southeastern Mexico and then continue on to the U.S. Gulf Coast later in the week.


The worst of the immediate impact was expected along the resort-studded northeastern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where hurricane conditions were expected Tuesday night and landfall early Wednesday.


From Tulum to Cancun, tourism-dependent communities still soaked by the remnants of Tropical Storm Gamma could bear the brunt of the storm.


In Cancun, long lines snaked from supermarkets, lumber yards and gas stations as people scrambled for provisions under mostly sunny skies. Officials warned that residents should have several days of water and food on hand. Boat owners lined up at public ramps to pull their craft out of the water.


Mexico evacuated thousands of tourists and residents from coastal areas along its Riviera Maya. Some 160 shelters were opened in Cancun alone.


Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquín said Tuesday night that the government had made preparations, but “it is a strong, powerful hurricane.” He said the area hadn’t seen one like it since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.


Some hotels that had exemptions because their structures were rated for major hurricanes planned to shelter their guests in place and testing their emergency systems.


When the alarm blared at the Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel, Lizeth Elena Garza Hernandez rushed out of her room carrying her 10-month-old daughter, Hannah. She had arrived Sunday from the northern Mexican border city of Reynosa with her husband, 4-year-old daughter and her parents-in-law.


“I’m scared because we don’t know how it could impact here, because we’ve never been in a situation like it,” she said.


Joseph Potts, a deputy sheriff from Denver, Colorado, took care of his 3-year-old son near a kiddie pool while his wife attended an emergency information session about the hurricane. The hotel offered to shelter guests in a ballroom, but a short time later after the storm intensified the hotel told them they would all be moved to a university in Cancun.


“The hurricane kind of popped up overnight and we just want to get it over with and go back to the beach,” Potts said.


The official definition of rapid intensification of a hurricane is 35 mph in 24 hours. Delta increased in strength 80 mph, more than doubling from a 60 mph storm at 2 pm EDT Monday to 140 mph at 2 pm EDT Tuesday.


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