Hurricane Dean closed in on the Mexican mainland Wednesday, battering evacuated oil platforms on the Bay of Campeche and picking up some of the force it unleashed on the Yucatan Peninsula. The storm was upgraded from a Category 1 to Category 2 storm late Wednesday morning.
Dean swept across the Yucatan on Tuesday after making landfall as a ferocious Category 5 hurricane, toppling trees, power lines and houses — but sparing Glitzy resorts on the Mayan Riviera.
Driving rain, poor communications and impassable roads made it difficult to determine how isolated Mayan communities fared in the sparsely populated jungle where Dean made landfall after killing 13 people in the Caribbean.
Greatly weakened from that overland journey, Dean moved across the Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico, home to more than 100 oil platforms, three major oil exporting ports and the Cantarell oil field, Mexico's most productive.
In the past few days, more than 14,000 workers have been evacuated from the platforms, reports CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano.
The entire field's operations were shut down just ahead of the storm, reducing daily production by 2.7 million barrels of oil and 2.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
The sprawling, westward storm could strike just miles from a nuclear power plant, which has been shut down as a precaution, reports CBS News' Adrienne Bard.
At 11 a.m. EDT, Dean was a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 100 mph and was centered about 75 miles east-southeast of Tuxpan, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving west-northwest at about 18 mph.
Torrential rains, battering waves and a storm surge of six to eight feet above normal were forecast, and some strengthening was possible over the warm waters of the Gulf before landfall.
But the center's hurricane specialist Daniel Brown said Dean was unlikely to have enough time to strengthen beyond a Category 1 or 2 hurricane before making landfall Wednesday afternoon. Outer bands of the storm system reached the mainland before dawn.
The last tourists departed Tuesday from the beaches of Tecolutla, a getaway on the western Gulf of Mexico where the storm is forecast to hit.
Zbigniew Szadkowski, 50, a physics professor from Lodz, Poland, said he wanted to see a hurricane in action but was leaving anyway with wife Anna, 51.
"I wanted to stay but my wife said no," he said.
Residents boarded up doors and windows on hotels facing the beach, and authorities issues stern warnings for the low-lying coast. "Now is not the time to be enjoying Tecolutla's beaches," town councilor Ricardo Pardinas said.
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