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Yucatan Resorts Being LEVELED by Slow-Moving MONSTER CANE!


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Hurricane Wilma's eyewall hits Yucatan

Friday, October 21, 2005; Posted: 2:12 p.m. EDT (18:12 GMT)




CANCUN, Mexico (CNN) -- The center of fierce Hurricane Wilma brushed Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Friday as thousands of tourists huddled in shelters and hotels in the deadly storm's path.


At 2 p.m. ET, the Category 4 storm's eyewall was over the island of Cozumel with top winds of 140 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.


On the mainland in Cancun, the roaring wind and pelting rain whipped white beaches and palm trees near oceanfront hotels. (Watch tourists seek shelter from Wilma's brutal winds -- 2:01)


Thousands of visitors and residents in the area's tourism district have evacuated by bus to hotels and shelters farther inland while many buildings are boarded up in preparation for the coming storm. Airports, ship ports, schools and businesses are all shut down.


The hurricane -- crawling toward the northwest at near 5 mph -- is expected to linger over the Yucatan for at least two days.


If Wilma's center makes landfall and stalls over the Yucatan, it is expected to weaken and slow down even further as it approaches Florida, according to Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. (Watch Mayfield's latest forecast for Wilma -- 3:42)


"That would obviously be terrible news for Mexico," Mayfield said, "but for the United States' interests it means that we'll have a weaker hurricane coming out into the Gulf of Mexico ... and it will be slower in getting here."


However, if Wilma merely clips the Yucatan's northeastern coast, Mayfield said, "it will likely be a much stronger hurricane into the Gulf of Mexico.


"And if it makes that turn to the north sooner, it'll start coming across the Florida Keys and the southern portion of the [Florida] peninsula earlier than forecast."


The latest forecast has Wilma making landfall somewhere in South Florida or the Keys by late Monday.


Wilma approached Mexico with about the same strength as Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into Louisiana August 29 as a Category 4 with 140 mph winds, killing more than 1,200 people.


The storm is already blamed for the deaths of at least 13 people in Haiti and Jamaica, The Associated Press reported.

Stranded in Mexico


About 1,500 people were crowded into a dark, sweltering municipal gymnasium in downtown Cancun, AP reported, some taking shelter under plastic tarps because of a leaking ceiling.


"After one more day of this, I believe people will start getting cranky. Things could get messy," Scott Stout, 26, told AP. The resident of Willisville, Illinois, was on a honeymoon with his wife, Jamie, according to AP.


About 20,000 tourists remained at shelters and hotels south of the city, AP reported, and an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 in Cancun itself.


Some, like 30-year-old Carlos Porta of Barcelona, Spain, were handed plastic bags with a pillow and blanket, AP said.


"From a luxury hotel to a shelter. It makes you angry. But what can you do?" he told AP. "It's just bad luck."

Cuban evacuations


Wilma, a 400-mile-wide storm, also was battering western Cuba.


Early Friday, data from Cuba indicated that 20-foot waves were pounding portions of the southern coast of Cuba's Isle of Youth, the hurricane center said.


The storm's eye is expected to near Cuba's western tip early Monday as it heads toward Florida.


Cuban authorities were evacuating 500,000 residents from the island in the nation's westernmost provinces in anticipation of heavy rain and the possibility of mudslides. (See video on Cuba's preparedness -- 2:09)


By Thursday afternoon, more than 222,000 residents had left their homes, many of which are in dire condition after previous hurricanes hit Cuba this year, officials said.

Florida mandatory evacuations delayed


Mandatory evacuations for residents of the Florida Keys have been postponed indefinitely, but Monroe County emergency officials encouraged people on Friday to leave before the only road that connects the island chain to the mainland becomes backed up with traffic. (Full story)


When it becomes clear when Wilma will hit Florida, Monroe County will call for a mandatory evacuation of all residents, authorities said.


Mandatory evacuations for houseboat residents, nonresidents and recreational vehicles were ordered on Wednesday.


Officials said heavy traffic is expected on Florida's major highways as other coastal areas order mandatory evacuations. U.S. 1, the single road connecting the Keys to the rest of Florida, is clear of traffic and gasoline supplies in the Keys are at good levels, officials said Friday.


A shelter was opened Thursday at Florida International University in Miami. Anyone choosing not to stay at the shelter was urged to travel north of Orlando, as hotels and other accommodations in central Florida are beginning to fill up, officials said.


There will be no shelters available in the Keys.


In an effort to speed up the evacuation, authorities have locked down all drawbridges and suspended the tolls on the Card Sound Bridge, which connects mainland Florida with Key Largo.


Schools and all county offices in the Keys are closed Friday and Monroe County courts are closed through Monday.


Wilma would be the seventh hurricane to hit the state in 14 months.


CNN's Susan Candiotti in Cancun, Allan Chernoff in Florida, Dave Hennen and Lucia Newman in Cuba contributed to this report.

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Friday afternoon into the evening, Cozumel has been in the eye of WILMA for over 5 hours, while Cancun is getting blasted by 140 mph winds in the eyewall for 4-5 hours as this monster hurricane edges SLOWLY, EXCRUCIATINGLY Northwest. Get on with it already!


Next to the first image is a radar shot of WILMA, from a Mexican radar site.



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