Dean Strikes Mexico for Second Time

Hurricane Dean hits coast with 100 mph winds after sparing most of the Yucatan.

Aug. 22, 2007 — -- Hurricane Dean struck Mexico again this afternoon, one day after crossing the Yucatan Peninsula, narrowly avoiding a direct hit on popular tourists resorts.

The National Hurricane Center said Dean made landfall near the town of Tecolutla as a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of 100 mph, just before 1 p.m. EDT today.

Dean regained some strength overnight as it crossed over the Gulf of Mexico, but it was a far cry from the 165 mph, Category 5 storm that crossed the peninsula after making landfall the first time Tuesday.

i-CAUGHT.

Before making landfall today Dean moved through the Bay of Campeche overnight, punishing Mexican offshore oil-drilling operations that produce oil for the U.S. market. Most of the platforms had been evacuated and the state-owned oil company Pemex has reportedly cut back production by as much as 80 percent.

Dean has already killed at least 12 people after brushing by Jamaica and the Cayman Islands as it sped through the Caribbean.

By the time Dean came ashore Tuesday over the tiny indigenous village of Majahual, Mexico, it had become the most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in two decades, with a storm surge of 12 to 18 feet.

Dean's Impact Less Than Expected

But many of the expected consequences of a huge hurricane never materialized in Mexico's towns and villages.

The massive storm's fury, which could have had catastrophic effects, hit along miles of mostly undeveloped wetlands. That actually helped limit the storm's power. Much of the Yucatan Peninsula has open marshland and wetlands, which act like a sponge and absorb the wind's and water's impacts, storm experts say.

In fact one study done in the early '90s for New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina estimated for every two miles of wetland, a hurricane tidal surge can shrink by up to half a foot.

So, just hours after Dean's departure, an aerial tour of Cancun showed very little impact to structures.

However, the hurricane's damage varied across the region. Just south of Cancun, in the resort village of Playa Del Carmen, residents were a little closer to the impact of the storm and the impact was worse.

The village had more building damage and beach erosion than Cancun.

But Hurricane Dean's damage differs vastly from other storms like it that hit more developed areas.

Two years ago, Hurricane Wilma was a Category 3 hurricane that rocked Cancun. And Category 5 Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida in August 1992.

"If we had this impact in the United States, say in Tampa or Miami, the damage would have been catastrophic, on the order of tens of billions of dollars of damage," said Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center.