MEXICO CITY – Mexican authorities declared a red alert on Tuesday as a strengthening Hurricane Delta closed in on the Yucatan Peninsula.
People were being evacuated from hotels in Puerto Morelos, Cancun and Holbox Island.
The government of Quintana Roo state estimates that nearly 41,000 tourists are currently vacationing in the northern part of the jurisdiction, which lies on the path of the storm.
Gov. Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez said that Delta is expected to make landfall in the state around midnight Tuesday as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane.
Delta is already a Category 3 on the ascending five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.
As of 1500 GMT Tuesday, the storm was located 520 kilometers (320 miles) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, moving west-northwest at 26 km/h (16 mph), according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 185 km/h (115 mph) and is expected to grow stronger over the next 24 hours.
“Delta is forecast to be an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane when it reaches the Yucatan Peninsula,” the NHC said, predicting that the storm surge will push water levels to as much as 2.7 meters (9 feet) above normal tides.
The storm is likely to bring up to 15.24 centimeters (six inches) of rain to parts of the northern Yucatan Peninsula, with isolated totals of 25.4 centimeters (10 inches), the NHC said.
People in southeastern Mexico are still trying to recover from the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Gamma, which left six dead and drove thousands from their homes.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced on Tuesday the deployment of 5,000 military personnel to the Yucatan Peninsula to help deal with the emergency.
“It’s important that people heed the recommendations, that in low-lying areas they get out, go to shelters,” he said. “There is still time. According to the predictions, it will hit hardest tonight, the wee hours of Wednesday. So we have the whole day to prepare.”
Delta is the 25th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The NHC began using letters of the Greek alphabet after exhausting the list of 21 preselected names.
The storm is expected to become a threat to the Gulf Coast of the United States later this week.