Hurricane Emily pounded the Gulf Coast along the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday, driving thousands of Mexicans from their homes and knocking out power in south Texas before weakening to a tropical storm.
The eye of the hurricane hit the Mexican coast about 75 miles south of the border as a Category 3 hurricane with powerful winds of 125 mph. A Category 3 storm can cause extensive damage.
Residents along the coast boarded up their homes and businesses and headed for higher ground. There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.
Emily lost power as it moved inland with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, but forecasters said it could cause chaos in the mountains of northeastern Mexico as it dumps torrential rain.
"It is going to be a very dangerous situation. We could easily see 15 inches of rain in some mountain areas and that will cause flash floods and mudslides," said Stacy Stewart of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
In the town of San Fernando near the border, some homes were severely damaged.
Hurricane veterans were surprised by Emily's force.
"I have seen lots, but this one is very bad. My little house was flooded with water," said Cristina Santiago, 77, at a shelter.
More than 700 people crowded into the shelter. Wind howled outside and rain lashed against wooden planking over the windows.
By Wednesday afternoon, Emily was 80 miles southeast of Monterrey, Mexico, a major industrial city.
Big waves and winds of up to 60 mph on the outer edge of the storm pounded the south Texas coastline and 27,000 homes and businesses were without power in the state.
Emily triggered about 10 tornadoes in Texas, mostly near Corpus Christi and Alice, but there were no reports of injuries.
"Essentially we're looking at a lot of wind damage, a lot of power lines down, some roofs that appear to have been removed and also some minor wall damage," said Remy Garza of the Cameron County emergency office.
"Things could have been much worse," he said.
About 4,000 people spent the night in emergency shelters in and around the border city of Brownsville, Tex.
In Mexico's Tamaulipas state, at least 17,000 people were evacuated to shelters, mainly from small fishing communities along the coast. Many fretted over the fate of their modest corrugated iron homes.
Only four rain-soaked dogs roamed the abandoned streets of the fishing town of La Pesca. Residents had fled for shelter at a nearby naval base.
More than 1,000 nests of endangered sea turtles, each with dozens of eggs inside, survived the storm, after conservationists fortified the nesting beaches with sandbags and put most of the nests into boxes to protect them.
"They are on the dry side of the hurricane. There's no damage to the nesting beach," said Pat Burchfield, deputy director of Brownsville's Gladys Porter Zoo, who works with Mexican and U.S. groups to protect the Kemp's Ridley turtles, among the most endangered in the world.
It was the second time Emily battered Mexico. On Monday, it crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula in southern Mexico, sending tens of thousands of tourists and locals to shelters in beach resorts in and around Cancun.
Emily killed five people in Jamaica and Grenada in its swing through the Caribbean as a Category 4 hurricane, and several people died in Mexico in incidents indirectly caused by the storm.
Mexico resumed crude oil shipments from its ports along the southern rim of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, three days after closing down operations because of Emily.