CHETUMAL, Mexico – Hurricane Ernesto came ashore on Mexico’s Caribbean coast near the border with Belize late Tuesday, after hundreds of tourists left beach resorts and fishermen abandoned low-lying villages to avoid the threat of rain and wind.
Ernesto, which started the day as a tropical storm, had sustained winds of 85 mph as its center moved over the shore town of Mahahual around 10 p.m. local time, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It said the storm was moving west at 15 mph and was expected to weaken as it moved across the Yucatan Peninsula.
The only major city in the area, Chetumal, capital of Quintana Roo state, is about 40 miles from Mahahual. Authorities earlier moved more than 1,300 tourists from resorts in Mahahual, Bacalar and other spots to Chetumal because the bayside city was expected to see less rain and wind than the coast.
In the city of Tulum to the north, some 6,000 tourists were sheltering in hotels away from the beach and authorities said the structures were strong enough to qualify as storm shelters.
The heart of the storm was keeping to the south of the big resort areas of Cancun and the Riviera Maya, though strong rain and winds were possible in those areas.
Forecasters said that after moving ashore, Ernesto was expected to cross Yucatan by tonight and enter the southern Gulf of Mexico in an area dotted with offshore oil platforms.