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Grace tracks south of Mérida after battering Tulum

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Tropical Storm Grace is moving at a land speed of 20 mph toward the Gulf of Mexico. Source: Weather Channel

Updated 10:20 p.m.: Its center 85 miles southeast of Mérida, Tropical Storm Grace is over Peto and heading west to the Gulf of Mexico. Top wind speeds were 75 miles per hour, reaching around 30 mph in the capital city.

Businesses and public transportation systems were shut down as a precaution in Mérida and most other municipalities.

Reports from the interior of the Yucatán Peninsula were scarce, but on the Caribbean Coast, where then-Hurricane Grace made landfall, wind and storm surges caused alarm.

The Yucatán Gulf coast and Mérida area were downgraded from red to orange alert, while the Valladolid, Chikindzonot and other municipalities closer to Quintana Roo remained in red.

The Category 1 storm had already soaked earthquake-damaged Haiti, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands en route to a direct hit on the Riviera Maya, the heart of Mexico’s tourism industry. Grace’s center struck just south of Tulum at 4:45 a.m. CDT with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kmh), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Workers clear tree damage in Valladolid as Tropical Storm Grace whips through the Yucatán Peninsula. Photo: Courtesy

This morning, the streets of Playa del Carmen were littered with tree branches. Some power lines hung limply and strong gusts of wind blew a stinging rain, The Associated Press reported.

Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquín said the storm had knocked out power to some 84,000 customers in Cancun and 65,000 in Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Puerto Aventura and Tulum.

Tourists in Tulum donned plastic ponchos as they splashed through puddles. The surf grew and beachgoers took shelter from the blowing sand.

Updated 6:15 a.m.: After briefly aiming directly at Mérida and Progreso, Hurricane Grace tracked south, away from Yucatán’s most populous cities.

The storm will reach Yucatan state through Chichimilá and Chikindzonot between 6 and 9 a.m. Its trajectory runs directly over Tekax and Uxmal, the latest weather maps indicate.

The Category 1 hurricane’s center reached land south of Tulum by 4:45 a.m. and will batter the Peninsula all day. It arrived with 80-mph winds but it will weaken by the time it crosses land toward Yucatán state, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

It’s still a day to prepare for high winds, which are expected to be between 60-80 mph by noon or 1 p.m. when Grace is at its closest to Mérida.

An updated timeline and storm track puts the center of Grace south of Mérida. Photo: Yucatan state government

Central and northern portions of the Yucatán Peninsula may get four to eight inches of rainfall with isolated amounts of up to 12 inches, which could lead to flash and urban flooding.

Grace will bring its strongest winds, a dangerous storm surge, and heavy rains to the Caribbean coast, according to the National Hurricane Center. The area has been under a hurricane warning since Tuesday.

Quintana Roo issued a red alert representing the highest risk for eight municipalities including: Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Tulum, Solidaridad, Puerto Morelos, Benito Juárez, Lázaro Cárdenas, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.

Grace will reach the Gulf by 7 p.m near Celestún, gaining strength while heading into central Mexico by Saturday.

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