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Hurricane Grace lashes eastern Mexico, causing power outages and felling trees

A man walks on the beach after Hurricane Grace made landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula, in Progreso, Mexico, August 19, 2021.

Lorenzo Hernandez | Reuters

Hurricane Grace battered eastern Mexico with torrential rain and howling winds early on Saturday, causing power outages, flooding and downing trees after becoming one of the most powerful storms in years to hit the country’s Gulf coast.

Grace was whipping up maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour (201 km per hour), a Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, when it slammed into the coast near the resort town of Tecolutla in Veracruz state in the early morning.

Civil protection authorities in Veracruz said Grace had caused power cuts and brought down trees. Video footage and photos posted on social media showed some damage to buildings, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Television footage showed some flooding in Ciudad Madero in the southern reaches of the state of Tamaulipas near the border of Veracruz. Mexican state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos’s (Pemex) Francisco Madero refinery is in Ciudad Madero.

Mexico City’s international airport said some flights had been canceled due to the hurricane.

Grace weakened as it moved inland but the National Hurricane Center warned of a dangerous storm surge — when seawater is pushed above its normal tide levels — as the hurricane struck.

By 7 a.m. CDT (1200 GMT), it was a Category 1 storm with top winds of 90 mph (150 kph). The center was about 60 miles (100 km) east-northeast of Mexico City, the Miami-based center said.

Before Grace hit land, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged people in five states to seek shelter.

“I ask the people of the regions of Veracruz, Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas and Hidalgo to seek refuge in high places with relatives and in shelters that are being set up,” Lopez Obrador said on Twitter.

Thousands of emergency workers from the civil protection service, the military and state power utility Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) were prepared for Grace, he said.

Through Sunday, the NHC forecast Grace would dump 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) of rain over swaths of eastern and central Mexico, and up to 18 inches in some areas. The heavy rainfall would likely cause areas of flash and urban flooding, it said.

In Tecolutla, residents spent hours on Friday afternoon taking hundreds of boats onto land to keep them safe.

Grace was expected to weaken to a tropical storm by Saturday afternoon, the NHC said.

Veracruz and its waters are home to several oil installations, including Pemex’s port in Coatzacoalcos and its Lazaro Cardenas refinery in Minatitlan in the south.

Grace hit land well to the north of these cities.

Earlier in the week, Grace pounded Mexico’s Caribbean coast, downing trees and causing power outages for nearly 700,000 people, but without causing loss of life, authorities said.

It also doused Jamaica and Haiti, still reeling from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, with torrential rain.

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