August 21, 2007
Dean in Mexico

It could have been much worse.

Hurricane Dean slammed into the Caribbean coast of Mexico today as a roaring Category 5 hurricane, the most intense Atlantic storm to make landfall in two decades. It lashed ancient Mayan ruins and headed for the modern oil installations of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Dean's path was a stroke of luck for Mexico: It made landfall in a sparsely populated coastline that had already been evacuated, skirting most of the major tourist resorts. It weakened within hours to a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph.

Sure feels weird to see "stroke of luck" used in conjunction with "Category 5 hurricane", doesn't it?

In the largely Mayan town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, at one point about 30 miles from the center of the storm, people stared from their porches at broken tree limbs and electrical cables crisscrossing the streets, some of which were flooded with ankle-deep water.

Tin roofing ripped from houses clunked hollowly as it bounced in the wind whistling through town.

"We began to feel the strong winds about 2 in the morning and you could hear that the trees were breaking and some tin roofs were coming off," said Miguel Colli, a 36-year-old store employee. "Everyone holed up in their houses. Thank God that the worst is over."

With the storm still screaming, there were no immediate reports of deaths, injuries or major damage, Quintana Roo Gov. Felix Gonzalez told Mexico's Televisa network, though officials had not been able to survey the area. In the Quintana Roo state capital, Chetumal, the storm downed trees and sent sheets of metal flying through the air.

Let's hope those immediate reports prove to be accurate. The storm caused multiple deaths in the Caribbean, and it will still hit the Mexican mainland as at least a Category 1 hurricane, so there's still plenty of potential for catastrophe. But hopefully, the worst is over.

SciGuy says Dean is notable in many ways.

Hurricane Dean moved inland near Costa Maya this morning as an historic, 165-mph storm with a central pressure of 906 millibars. This figure places Dean as the third-most intense landfalling hurricane ever in the Atlantic, behind only the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.

Among Dean's other notables:

  • First Category 5 Atlantic hurricane at landfall since Andrew, in 1992

  • Dean is the ninth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever to form

  • Five of the ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes have now formed since 2004

Let's hope that list doesn't change much in the near future.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 21, 2007 to Hurricane Katrina