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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Grace gave Yucatán its biggest thrashing in 19 years

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Officers clear a falled tree at Avenida Itzaes while Tropical Storm Grace passes through Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

Tropical Storm Grace is being declared the most fierce storm the Yucatán Peninsula has seen in 19 years, when Isidoro famously struck.

Fallen trees and downed power lines left homes in the dark for hours — as of 6:30 a.m. today an untold number of households are still without power.

But Grace was no Isidoro.

No deaths were reported while Isidoro killed 17 people in Yucatán. Mérida dodged a bullet that earlier weather forecasts said was headed straight at it. But Grace weakened once it hit land and tracked south of the Peninsula’s most populated areas.

After coming in from the Caribbean south of Tulum, Grace kept moving west. The center of the storm reached the state at 9:23 a.m., crossing Chikindzonot, and the state was battered for the next eight hours.

Shortly after 5 p.m. around Celestún, the storm made its exit to the Gulf of Mexico, but winds and rain remained for hours. By then, 154,488 households were without power. The number of outages by dawn was not reported.

The wind was most damaging, with gusts up to 73 mph in Mérida. It wasn’t technically a hurricane, but it sure felt like one, especially when the wind howled eerily.

“Maximum wind gusts of 85 kph (53 mph) were expected for Mérida, but they were widely exceeded, although the rains were not the torrential ones that were anticipated,” Juan Vázquez Montalvo, a UADY meteorologist, told Diario de Yucatán.

In Mérida, the winds picked up around 1, when the center of the storm passed over Peto to the south. By 2, gusts became frightening.

By 3 p.m., trees were reported to have fallen at Avenida Quetzalcóatl, in Circuito Colonias near the Kukulcán sports center, at Avenida Pedagógica avenue, in the Azcorra neighborhood, Los Vergeles, Ciudad Industrial, San Marcos Ciudad Sustentable and Avenida Itzaes, among other locations.

In the streets of Mérida, the evening scene was dominated by fallen trees, dangerously hanging cables, and flooding, Diario reported.

Despite the chaos, no more than 50 residents were transferred to municipal shelters for protection. At the airport, 22 flights were canceled.

Comparisons to Isidoro

Grace was not nearly as destructive as Hurricane Isidore, which killed 17 people, but comparisons were still inevitable.

Isidoro/Isidore hit near Mérida as a 125-mph hurricane and remained for 36 hours. Over 30 inches of rain fell while the storm surge reached as high as 20 feet over southern portions of the state.

Nearly one-third of all fishing vessels were damaged by Isidoro and close to 36,500 houses were destroyed. Half a million people were left homeless.

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