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Emily churns across Gulf of Mexico

Hurricane may strengthen in warm waters as Yucatan cleans up

story.emily.1015p.accu.jpg
Hurricane Emily moves through the Gulf of Mexico in this satellite image taken at 10:15 p.m. ET Monday.

HURRICANE EMILY

At 8 p.m. ET Monday
Position of center:
410 miles (660 kilometers) east-southeast of La Pesca, Mexico
Latitude: 22.6 degrees north
Longitude: 91.5 degrees west
Top sustained winds:
75 mph (120 kph)
Source: National Hurricane Center

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Hurricane Emily
Yucatan Peninsula
Mexico

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (CNN) -- Residents of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula cleaned up downed trees and other debris Monday after they were pelted overnight by Hurricane Emily, which has now moved into the Gulf of Mexico.

Late Monday afternoon, the Mexican government issued a hurricane warning for the coastline of Tamaulipas state, from the Texas border south to La Cruz, telling residents to brace for hurricane conditions within 24 hours.

The storm weakened considerably as it moved across the Yucatan and into the Gulf. But forecasters said Emily is likely to strengthen before making landfall again late Tuesday.

At 8 p.m. ET, the storm's maximum sustained winds were just 75 mph, barely qualifying it as a hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

The center of the storm was about 410 miles (660 km) east-southeast of La Pesca, Mexico, and about 440 miles east-southeast of Brownsville, Texas. It was moving west-northwest at about 16 mph.

The latest forecast predicts landfall in northeastern Mexico, with only a small sliver of southern Texas still in range for a possible hit. But residents of the lower Rio Grande Valley were being warned they could get 5 to 10 inches of rain from the storm, with up to 15 inches in isolated pockets.

A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning were still in place for the Texas coast from Baffin Bay, south of Corpus Christi, to the Mexican border.

Forecasters said hurricane conditions -- including sustained winds in excess of 73 mph -- were possible within 36 hours, and tropical storm conditions were expected within 24 hours.

A tropical storm warning was also issued for the Mexican coast from La Cruz south to Cabo Rojo.

Police have so far reported no fatalities from Emily in the coastal resort areas in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo popular with U.S. tourists.

However, a Mexican official told CNN that there is concern for the safety of indigenous Mayans living farther inland.

"That's the west part of Yucatan, where we have 100,000 Mayan people living in not very strong houses," said Carolina Cardena, Yucatan's tourism secretary. "So we're worried about them."

Emily came ashore early Monday north of Tulum, Mexico, on the Yucatan coast as a Category 4 storm, with 135 mph winds (217 km/h).

The strongest part of the storm passed directly over the resort of Cozumel, according to the center.

Prepared well

Hermann Elger, manager of Cancun's Ritz-Carlton Hotel, said the resort community had prepared well, receiving four or five days warning before Emily's arrival.

Cancun's airport closed and Mexico's state oil company evacuated drill rigs offshore as the storm approached.

Mexico asked an estimated 130,000 tourists in Cancun and along the coast to the south to evacuate.

Emily toppled many trees on the Yucatan when it slammed into the area, but no injuries or deaths have been reported, police said.

With rain still falling over parts of the Yucatan, thousands of locals and tourists emerged during the afternoon after spending the night crammed in shelters. (Full story)

In Playa del Carmen, a resort just south of Cancun, the hurricane downed a number of trees and blew the roofs off several bungalows.

Cozumel's Coral Princess Hotel reported the storm had broken a few windows and the front door but that the hotel hadn't suffered substantial damage. Its pool also was overflowing. The hotel had not regained electricity as of midmorning Monday.

"I wouldn't want to go through it again, but it turned out for the best," said Gary Swindler of Texas, who was staying with his family there.

He said he could see downed trees and debris on the street Monday morning.

He said the hotel's guests were in a conference room for the duration of the storm. "The front door broke through about 11 p.m.," he said. "Things were breaking and crashing; water was coming through."

Emily swept south of Jamaica Saturday morning, with bands of heavy rain dealing a second blow to an island cleaning up after last week's Hurricane Dennis.

The storm is blamed for the deaths of at least two people in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, with two or three others missing. All were in a car pushed into a lake by high water, a Jamaican official said.

Another person was killed in Grenada, which took a near-direct hit from the storm Thursday.

Emily is the latest in what has so far been an active hurricane season in the Atlantic, with five tropical systems developing in the first six weeks.

All five systems have reached at least tropical storm strength, with two becoming Category 4 hurricanes.

Dennis -- which had 150 mph (240 km/h) winds at one point -- was the earliest Category 4 hurricane ever recorded in the Caribbean basin.

The storm caused extensive damage in Cuba, Haiti and the southern United States, killing more than three dozen people.

CNN's Karl Penhaul contributed to this report.

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