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Wilma Lashes Yucatan, Slouches Toward Florida

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

A powerful and slow-moving Hurricane Wilma is thrashing the resorts of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Wilma came ashore Friday as a Category 4 hurricane. It's lost some strength but it's now almost stalled, just crawling toward the Northeast. The National Hurricane Center has announced a hurricane watch for the entire southern Florida peninsula. Wilma is expected to hit southwest Florida on Monday. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has been traveling across the Yucatan. She joins us from Chichen Itza.

Hello there.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:

Hello.

ELLIOTT: What are the conditions like where you are?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, right now we're seeing howling winds. We're about 90 miles to the west of Cancun where the eye of the storm passed earlier today and we're certainly feeling the effects of Wilma, but, of course, that's nothing compared to what they're seeing in Cancun, in Cozumel and in Play del Carmen which has really received the brunt of Hurricane Wilma.

ELLIOTT: Any word yet on how the famous Mayan ruins there weathered the storm?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, imagine these Mayan ruins have been here for hundreds of years and no word yet whether the Mayan ruins have remained perfectly intact or not. So far we haven't even gotten word of if there's any damage elsewhere where the storms really hit in Cozumel and in Cancun because, you know, rescue workers are still huddled inside waiting for this slow, slow-moving storm to pass.

ELLIOTT: Is there a sense of how many tourists might have been trapped there or if most were able to get out in advance of the storm? This is an area that has so many resorts.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is indeed an area that has so many resorts and there were so many people there that did manage to get out. Some of them are here in Chichen Itza desperately trying to see how they can get back home. Others, though, did remain behind, at least about 20,000 people, so we're being told; in Cancun and in the surrounding areas, there might be more. And they have been put in gymnasiums and ballroom hotels and in other places which are deemed safe, but, of course, this storm is very strong, although it is losing some strength now. And they have been holed up there for two nights in a row, and possibly if this storm does not move any quicker, a third now.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Chichen Itza, Mexico, thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you.

ELLIOTT: And another tropical storm has formed in the Caribbean named with the Greek letter alpha because we've run out of names. This sets the record for the most storms in an Atlantic hurricane season. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.