U.S. News

Hurricane Dean Weakens to Category 1 over Yucatan


Hurricane Dean plowed into the Caribbean coast of Mexico on Tuesday as a roaring Category 5 hurricane, the most intense Atlantic storm to make landfall in two decades, but has since weakened and been downgraded to a Category 1 storm.

Oil & Gas Spared by Dean

Dean's trajectory largely spared Mexico: The hurricane killed 13 people in the Caribbean, but it made continental landfall along a sparsely populated coastline, well to the south of the key resorts where some 50,000 tourists had been evacuated.

As a Category 1 storm, it has maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour -- but it is expected to regain strength as it draws power from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where more than 100 offshore oil platforms were evacuated ahead of the storm.

Earlier, Dean had packed winds near 165 mph.

There were concerns the storm could wreak havoc on oil facilities along Mexican and Texas coasts, but with the current path those worries seem to be subsiding.

State civil protection official Francisco de la Cruz described battering winds from his hurricane-proof offices in Chetumal just before the eye reached land.

"There's a lot of noisy wind now with this creature all over us," he said.

The Chetumal city Web site reported power outages as the hurricane knocked trees down across roadways and sheets of metal flew through the air.

Dean: Stocks to Watch

Dean was the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 in South Florida, the hurricane center said.

Category 5 storms -- capable of catastrophic damage -- are extremely rare. Only three have hit the U.S. since record-keeping began.

Over the past three days, officials in Mexico have put more than 50,000 people on flights leaving various parts of the Yucatan peninsula, the federal Communications and Transportation Department said.

Though expected to escape a direct hit, Cancun still could face destructive winds, since the storm swirled over 75,000 square miles -- about the size of South Dakota.