Thousands of tourists and residents have fled from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico after hurricane Rina, downgraded to a tropical storm, churned on its path.
The storm hit Cancun and the Mayan Riviera in Mexico's most touristy region; residents evacuated their homes while tourists scrambled to find flights. Around 2,300 people were moved from Holbox, an island where the Caribbean meets the Gulf of Mexico
The head of Mexico's West Coast National Marine Park, Jaime Gonzalez told Reuters the hurricane would likely erode Cancun's famous white-sand beaches, which have been rebuilt twice since Wilma stripped away nearly 60 percent of the city's sand.
Sixty-eight flights to and 70 out of Cancun were canceled on Thursday, roughly 90 percent of the total number scheduled, Reuters reported. But the city's airport remained open.
There haven't been this many flights canceled from Cancun International airport since the H1N1 influenza in 2009, said Dario Flota, director of the Riviera Maya's tourist promotion trust, referring to the spring 2009 swine flu outbreak.
At 10am CDT the National Hurricane center reported that Rina was churning maximum sustained winds of 35mph, moving NNE at 6 mph. It is expected to weaken throughout the course of the day.
Strong vertical wind seam dry air entrainment, and passage over land have taken their toll on Rina, the National Hurricane Center reported. The low-level center is exposed well to the south and Southwest of the remaining disorganized convection and based on the satellite appearance and observations from Cancun Mexico, it appears to be much weaker than it was 24 hours ago.
Around 275 residents living in the email fishing town of Punta Allen were evacuated into emergency centers and many lost electricity. Mexico's government issued a statement that they would send electrical workers, cranes, and vehicles to repair and maintain services, the Daily Mail reported.
The projected path for Rina is to curve up eastwards towards Cuba and the Straits of Florida after crossing the top of Yucatan, but the National Hurricane Center has warned that is uncertain where exactly the storm will be located by the weekend.
As Mexico issued Hurricane warnings eight cruise ships changed their itineraries. Several ships headed to Cozumel early so they could be out of the way of the storm before it lands.
Airlines have also made appropriate adjustments for the storm:
Delta will drop change fees for ticketholders traveling to or from Cancun and Cozumel on Thursday and Friday. JetBlue will waive change fees for travel in and out of Cancun on Thursday and Friday, though ticketholders must change their date of travel through Nov. 1. United will wave change fees on tickets between Wednesday and Monday for travel to Cozumel and Cancun in Mexico as well as Grand Cayman Island in the Cayman Islands. US Airlines will wave change fees for those traveling to or from Cancun on Thursday or Friday, though they must be rebooked for either Wednesday or Saturday through next Tuesday. Virgin America will drop change fees on tickets booked on or before Tuesday for travel to and from Cancun.
Rina is the 17th named storm this year, which makes 2011 the seventh most-active season since record-keeping began in 1851, Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground Inc. in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote yesterday.