- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2005

LA PESCA, Mexico — Hurricane Emily swirled across the Gulf of Mexico yesterday and took aim once again at the Mexican coastline, forcing thousands in the northeast and in southern Texas to seek higher ground.

The storm was gathering strength as it barreled toward the coast, a day after ripping roofs off resort hotels and stranding thousands of tourists along the Mayan Riviera, which includes the resort of Cancun.

Wind and rain were expected to begin lashing land again later last night, and the eye of the storm was likely to come ashore near the fishing village of La Pesca, which is popular with Mexican and U.S. tourists.

Residents rushed to nail plywood boards over windows and doors, while Mexican army trucks roamed the streets collecting evacuees laden with suitcases and rolled-up blankets.

The town was among at least 20 low-lying, seaside Mexican communities being emptied of residents before the storm, which was expected to hit a sparsely populated stretch of coastline just south of the Texas border.

A hurricane warning was issued from La Cruz, Mexico, north to Port Mansfield, Texas.

In southern Texas, campers emptied beachfront parks on South Padre Island, residents piled sandbags to hold back floodwaters, and schools were turned into shelters.

About 150 miles south, in La Pesca, the approaching storm brought a steady wind that blew across the town, and breakers skittered toward the abandoned beach. Residents boarded up windows and tied down tin roofs on their homes.

Felipe Portillo, a 67-year-old fisherman, helped his sons haul five small, fiberglass fishing boats off the beach and up to the roadside, away from the water. Then they planned to head to a shelter inland.

“Overconfidence kills men,” Mr. Portillo said. “Running is your best defense.”

Some residents were taken to a naval base on a relatively high point on the edge of town where excited children raced about giddily, shrieking and laughing as their parents settled in.

Emily hit the Yucatan Peninsula on Monday as a fierce Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds, causing millions of dollars in damage. Hundreds of local residents were left homeless, but no deaths or major injuries were reported.

The storm weakened during the rampage, but once back out to sea it began to strengthen again. By yesterday afternoon, it was packing sustained winds of 95 mph and was located 185 miles east of La Pesca, heading northwest at 14 mph.

Mexico’s state-run oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, evacuated 15,000 oil workers from rigs in the storm’s path and halted production in the Gulf as the storm swept north of the company’s main oil fields. It was not clear whether the storm had caused any damage.

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