- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

MERIDA, Mexico Powerful Hurricane Isidore shredded trees, twirled streetlights and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes yesterday along the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the Category 3 storm could grow stronger and veer to the north in two days, putting it on a possible course for the U.S. Gulf Coast.
As Isidore marched along the Yucatan coast with 125-mph winds, police and troops went house to house to evacuate some 70,000 people from coastal towns and villages. Officials canceled classes for 480,000 students to free classrooms for use as shelters.
Heavy waves pounded the piers and washed onto coastal boulevards as Isidore roared toward Progreso, the peninsula's main port city, 20 miles to the north.
Reporters saw light poles uprooted and hurled to the ground as their lamp fixtures continued to twirl in the winds above. Flying tree limbs crashed to the streets as troops sent in to help evacuate residents began to pull out of town.
At 5 p.m. EDT, Isidore was about 35 miles east-northeast of Progreso. It was heading west at about 8 mph a direction that was expected to continue for at least a day.
Isidore dumped 12 to 20 inches of rain on the sparsely populated northern coastline of the peninsula, knocking out phone and power services to small villages.
Hundreds of fishermen had returned to shore and secured small boats as the storm neared Progreso, said Capt. Alberto Ordaz Galindo, in charge of navigation for the port captain's office there.
"There is nobody in danger now" at sea, he said by telephone.
Yucatan state Gov. Patricio Patron ordered all coastal communities evacuated and soldiers, and police in all-terrain vehicles scoured deserted streets along the coast looking for locals. The navy used small vessels to cruise from village to village, enforcing the mandatory evacuations.
"This is just the beginning," Mr. Patron said, adding that officials were bracing for what could be the worst natural disaster in the Yucatan's hurricane-battered history.
Torrential rains associated with Isidore caused flooding that killed a 16-year-old boy and an 89-year-old man on Nicaragua's Pacific Coast, and authorities there bused hundreds of families to higher ground.
Hurricane warnings were in effect from Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico to the Mayan ruins of Tulum on the Caribbean.
Isidore hit western Cuba on Friday and Saturday with 100-mph winds and torrential rains. The amount of damage was not clear, but a tour of the affected region found heavy flooding across the western part of the island.
Some communities in the extreme west were reachable only by helicopter, and local reservoirs were filled to overflowing.

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