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Hurricane history: Mexico’s worst

From Hilda in 1955 to Manuel in 2013, a summary of the most severe

There’s no getting away from the fact that many parts of Mexico, due to unfortunate geographical fact, are susceptible to hurricanes. They are such an accepted part of the climate that they have their own seasons: May 15 to November 30 in the Pacific and June 1 to November 30 in the Atlantic.

The effects of these powerful storms can be devastating and tragic, as can be seen here in a list of some of the worst hurricanes in Mexico’s recorded history.

• Hilda, September 19, 1955: Hit the eastern Yucatán between Chetumal and Cozumel with 185 km/h winds, weakened over land and then regained its strength, becoming a 209 km/h Category 3 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, where it hit Tampico. It left 300 dead and US $120 million in damage, mostly from flooding, which was also a result of the effects of Hurricanes Gladys and Janet during the same period.

• Mexico, October 27, 1959: Hurricane Mexico was a rare and devastating Category 5 storm, striking the Pacific coast with 261 km/h winds, and leaving between 1,000 and 2,000 dead. A landslide in Minatitlán, Colima, was responsible for 800 of those deaths, and venomous snakes and scorpions, disturbed by the slide, killed more afterwards. The damage tag was $45 million.

• Beulah, September 20, 1967: It made landfall on the Mexico-U.S. border near the Rio Grande Valley, and is known as one of the five worst hurricanes to hit Texas in the 20th century, spawning some 115 tornadoes. It also caused some of Mexico’s worst flooding; there were 38 fatalities while the damage totaled $100 million.

• Gilbert, September 14, 1988: The most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic destroyed most of the 250 homes in La Carbonera, Nuevo León, after coming ashore in the Yucatán as a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 298 km/h. It passed through Campeche and went on to hit northern Mexico as a Category 3 event. There were 202 deaths; damage was $2 billion.

• Opal, October 2, 1995: This Category 4 hurricane did most of its damage through heavy rains that flooded Tabasco, Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Yucatán before making landfall in Pensacola Beach, Florida. There were 19 deaths.

• Roxanne, October 9, 1995: This Category 3 storm followed on the heels of Opal and brought sustained winds of 185 km/h to Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatán. Torrential rain and storm surges delivered the worst flooding Campeche had seen since 1927. A petroleum barge with 245 people on board sank and five people lost their lives. Pemex had to halt all its drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The death toll was 14; the damage toll $1.5 billion, combined with that of Hurricane Opal.

• Pauline, October 8, 1997: This storm developed near Huatulco, Oaxaca, and reached its peak of 298 km/h winds as it moved northward up the coast. Up to 16 inches of rain resulted in floods and mudslides that left more than 20,000 people homeless, and severely damaged Acapulco. Pauline left between 250 and 400 dead and did $7.5 billion in damage.

• Emily, July 10, 2005: It hit the Yucatán peninsula as a Category 4 hurricane, hitting Cozumel, then Tulum, before crossing the Bay of Campeche and making landfall in Tamaulipas. It wiped out entire towns and flooded huge areas. Nine were left dead; damages totaled $632 million.

• Wilma, October 19, 2005: Reportedly the worst ever with wind speeds up to 282 km/h, it hit the Yucatán coast in several places and caused huge losses to tourism and agriculture. It went through Cozumel, touched land in Cancún and then went through Ciudad del Carmen in Campeche. Many thousands of people were evacuated, electrical power was out in some areas for weeks and there was widespread looting. It left 19 dead and did up to $10 billion in damage.

• Dean, August 21, 2007: This Category 5 blow, with winds up to 266 km/h, landed on the Yucatán’s Costa Maya near Majahual. It camped there for 12 hours before crossing the Bay of Campeche and making landfall again, this time near Gutiérrez Zamora in Veracruz. It hit Pemex oil fields hard, destroyed hundreds of buildings in Majahual and closed the Costa Maya cruise ship port for a year. There were 12 fatalities and over $200 million in damage.

• Carlotta, June 15, 2012: This storm peaked as a Category 2 hurricane and made landfall near Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, a historical event for it was the first Pacific hurricane ever to make landfall that far east. Many mudslides resulted from heavy rains and at least 29,000 homes were damaged. Seven people died, and damage was estimated at $113 million.

• Ingrid, September 14, and Manuel, September 15, 2013: Ingrid was a Category 1 storm that formed in the Gulf of Mexico with winds reaching 140 km/h. The two storms combined killed 192 people and did $5.7 billion in damage, including the destruction of more than 11,500 homes. In Guerrero, some 30,000 homes were damaged and 168 people died.

Sources: SF Gate (en), Aztec Noticias (sp)

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