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Midway through hurricane season, remembering Gilbert

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This was the awesome damage inflicted on Cancun beaches by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Photo: Houston Chronicle
This was the awesome damage inflicted on Cancun beaches by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Photo: Houston Chronicle

Hurricane Gilbert, one of the most devastating tropical cyclones recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, made landfall in Yucatán 28 years ago today. It’s one of the most memorable hurricanes on the peninsula.

After steamrolling through Jamaica, Gilbert struck the states of Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Campeche, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Tamaulipas, sinking 83 ships and destroying 60,000 homes.

In nine days, it killed 318 people and caused about $7.1 billion (in 1988 USD) in damages over the course of its path. It is also thought that Gilbert carried with it a disease that wiped out the northern peninsula’s coconut palm population.

More than 5,000 American tourists were evacuated from Cancun, and tens of thousands of peninsula residents were left homeless.

At the time, Gilbert was the most powerful hurricane to ever strike Mexico.

Gilbert's path in 1988. Map: Wikimedia Commons
Gilbert’s path in 1988. Map: Wikimedia Commons

“Its ability to maintain such intensity for a long period of time, made Gilbert a memorable storm to behold and follow as long as you didn’t get in its way,” said blogger Greg Machos on Hurricaneville.

Gilbert cut a straight path through the peninsula, and had weakened by the time it reached the Gulf of Mexico. But over water, it gradually strengthened before making landfall in mainland Mexico on Sept. 16. It dissipated on Sept. 19 in the United States.

Gilbert arrived at the mid-point of the hurricane season, and remains as a reminder to be vigilant and prepared for strong, damaging storms.

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