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Grace made landfall near Tulum, Mexico, as a hurricane, with a strike on the mainland expected Friday night

Hurricane warnings have been issued from Puerto Veracruz to Cabo Rojo

Hurricane Grace made landfall on the Yucatán Peninsula near Cancún, Mexico, on Aug. 19, 2021. (Paola Chiomante/Reuters)
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Grace made landfall early Thursday near Tulum, about 80 miles south of the popular vacation destination of Cancún, on Mexico’s Caribbean coastline. The National Hurricane Center reported that the Category 1 hurricane came ashore near sunrise while packing sustained winds of 80 mph.

Damage seems minimal, with reports mainly of downed wires and trees and some inland and coastal flooding. This comes after Grace swamped parts of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, as well as other Caribbean islands such as Jamaica.

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Since landfall around 4:45 a.m. Central time, Grace has moved inland, weakening to a tropical storm with 65 mph sustained winds as of the 11 a.m. Thursday morning advisory. “Some additional weakening is likely this afternoon while Grace continues to cross the Yucatán Peninsula,” the Hurricane center wrote.

Impacts on the Yucatán Peninsula

As the storm traverses the Yucatán, Grace is expected to bring heavy rain and strong wind from Tulum to Campeche, which is under tropical-storm warnings as of midday Thursday.

Cancún to Punta Herrero, including Cozumel, also were under a hurricane warning as the storm made landfall. The worst of the storm slipped south of Cancún.

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While the strongest winds of a hurricane are often not sampled by land-based sensors, damaging wind gusts of at least 85 mph have been reported near the landfall zone. Some gusts near 100 mph may have occurred on the coast or in elevated areas nearby.

According to the Associated Press, the storm knocked out power to about 84,000 customers in Cancún. An additional 65,000 customers were in the dark to the south of there, including in Tulum and Cozumel, it noted.

In addition to the local population, about 130,000 tourists were believed to be in the region as the storm made landfall. Although evacuations have been limited, at least 125 tourists reportedly were sent to shelters from their hotels, according to Carlos Joaquín González, governor of Quintana Roo state.

Despite being a low-end hurricane, Grace significantly intensified as it approached the Yucatán Peninsula. Late Tuesday, the storm had sustained winds of 50 mph and a central pressure of 1003 millibars. By landfall Thursday morning, those values reached 85 mph and 983 millibars (as recorded by a storm chaser).

Grace fell just shy of the definition of rapid intensification, which calls for a gain of 35 mph over 24 hours. It instead managed a 30-mph gain. However, it seems likely that ongoing intensification at landfall helped the storm maximize havoc on the coast.

Grace set to reorganize before second landfall

Grace continues west across the Yucatán Peninsula today, emerging back over water by tonight.

The Hurricane Center is forecasting a general four to eight inches of rain across the Yucatán, with some readings as high as a foot. This is likely to lead to flash flooding.

Once back over water, Grace is likely to slowly reorganize.

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Grace’s main limiting factor once over water again may be the relatively limited time before its second landfall. The forecast calls for Grace to make the next strike in the northern part of the Veracruz state of mainland Mexico, where hurricane warnings run from Puerto Veracruz to Cabo Rojo.

Upon second landfall, it is anticipated that the storm will be a Category 1 hurricane, with sustained winds of about 85 mph. There is some chance that it could strengthen a bit more, though. Grace could bring damaging winds, a potentially deadly storm surge and flooding rains.

Rainfall totals in and around Veracruz of six to 12 inches are probable in a large swath, with isolated totals of around 18 inches. Such rainfall amounts will lead to flooding and mudslides, both of which could be fairly widespread.

Dangerous storm surges of three to five feet are likely near and north of the landfall area. On top of the rise in water, waves could bring further damage. This is all potentially exacerbated by the storm occurring during a full moon.

While the forecast calls for Grace to dissipate over the mountains of central Mexico, the Hurricane Center says there is some chance the storm may develop again as its remnants emerge into the Pacific Ocean early next week. If it does so, after its low-level center has been destroyed, the storm would be renamed upon new organization.