ORLANDO, Fla. – Hurricane Delta, a slightly weakened but still dangerous Category 3 storm, barreled toward Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula with winds of 115 mph (185 kph) for an expected landfall south of the Cancun resort before dawn Wednesday.
Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquin said the state government had prepared, but warned residents and tourists that “it is a strong, powerful hurricane.” He considered it a good sign that Delta had weakened a bit late Tuesday, but said the area hadn’t seen a storm like it since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Delta increased in strength by 80 mph in just 24 hours, more than doubling from a 60 mph storm at 2 p.m. EDT Monday to 140 mph at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday. Its top winds peaked at 145 mph (230 kph) before weakening slightly late Tuesday as it closed in on Yucatan.
Forecasters warned it was still an extremely dangerous storm nevertheless, with a life-threatening storm surge that could raise water levels 9 to 13 feet (2.7 to 4 meters), along with large and dangerous waves and flash flooding inland.
Delta was centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east-northeast of Cozumel early Wednesday and moving northwest at 17 mph (28 kph).
Thousands of Quintana Roo residents and tourists hunkered down in dozens of government shelters, waiting for landfall. Everyone had been ordered off the streets by 7 p.m.
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Throughout Tuesday, the evacuations of low lying areas, islands and the coastline expanded as Delta exploded over the warm Caribbean waters offshore. Much of Cancun’s hotel zone was cleared out as guests were bused to inland shelters. In Cancun alone, the government opened 160 shelters.
Some 300 guests