From: Isela Serrano, Reuters CANCUN
Published October 13, 2010 07:26 AM

Hurricane Paula menaces Mexico and Cuba

Mexico evacuated tourists and residents from islands off the Yucatan peninsula on Tuesday as Hurricane Paula, a Category 2 storm, was on track to sideswipe Mexico's Caribbean resorts before heading toward Cuba.

Packing winds of 100 miles per hour, the storm was expected to brush past the Yucatan coast, home to hundreds of resorts, before veering toward Cuba on Wednesday, the U.S. National Hurricane center said.


As it neared the Yucatan coast, Paula poured heavy rains on Cancun, Mexico's biggest tourist destination, and threatened to flood poor, outlying slums.

The Miami-based center said Paula was a 'small' Category 2 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.

The storm was not forecast to hit Mexico's main offshore oil-producing region in the Gulf of Mexico. Paula also spared Central America's coffee-growing region, which has already been battered this year by heavy rains, as it churned past the coast of Honduras on Monday.

Tourists kept out of the streets along the famed strip of hotels, discos and restaurants lining Cancun's white sand beaches. Locals rushed to stock up on supplies like water, food and gasoline, forming long lines at stores.

Cancun's mayor said several poor neighborhoods could be flooded.

"There will be a lot of rain and a lot of wind for a few hours. We are prepared," said Mayor Jaime Hernandez.

At least 22 flights planned for Tuesday and early Wednesday were canceled at Cancun's airport, an airport spokesman said. He urged people to not come to the airport unless they had a confirmed flight.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the coast of Mexico from Punta Allen northward to Cabo Catoche, including the tourist island of Cozumel, and Cuba's Pinar del Rio province.

Photo shows Hurricane Paula off the Yucatan Peninsula in a satellite image taken October 12, 2010.

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