- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

MERIDA, Mexico Hurricane Isidore peeled rooftops off homes and snapped trees in an area scattered with colonial cities, Mayan ruins and nature reserves before weakening to a tropical storm and stalling yesterday over the Yucatan Peninsula.
With communications down across the peninsula, Yucatan Gov. Patricio Patron reported at least two dead.
Forecasters predicted the storm would turn west last night and head back over water, where it likely would gain strength before hitting land again as a hurricane somewhere along the Texas or Louisiana coastline.
Isidore was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved inland over the Yucatan, tossing uprooted trees onto Merida's famous Paseo de Montejo, which normally features tourists riding horse-drawn carriages.
The storm pounded the region's ecological reserves and scattered ruins including the Mayan city of Chichen Itza with rain and high winds. It was not clear what damage the popular tourist spots suffered. Downed power and telephone lines cut off communication to much of the region.
Mr. Patron said one person was electrocuted in Merida by downed power lines, while a second was killed in a storm-related car crash on a highway outside the city.
By yesterday afternoon, the storm had stalled 55 miles south of Merida. It was expected to dump 10 to 15 more inches of rain on already inundated areas.
Waves battered Mexico's southern coast, pushing boats onto land. Mexico's state oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos, evacuated more than 8,000 workers from drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving skeleton crews aboard as the storm prepared to move out over the Gulf.
The hurricane caused heavy flooding in western Cuba over the weekend, then sheered the Yucatan shore Sunday with 125 mph winds and powerful waves.
It veered suddenly inland in the late afternoon. While its center barely avoided Merida, Yucatan's state capital with 800,000 residents, winds and sheets of rain shattered windows, downed trees and power lines and collapsed the balconies of elegant old houses.
A light, steady rain fell yesterday on the city's historical plaza, covered by a tangle of fallen branches. One family snapped a photo of their 2-year-old daughter in front of an uprooted tree, while dozens of other stranded visitors searched for a way to get home.
Richard Syrop, a 22-year-old manager at a health food store in Tucson, Ariz., wandered Merida's streets looking for a ride to the airport after waiting out the storm in his hotel.
"None of the taxis are working and none of the buses are working as far as we know," he said. "We just walked around for about an hour, trying to find a way to get to the airport."
Residents begged for food at temporary shelters set up by soldiers in schools. Classes were canceled throughout the state.

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