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Hurricane Dolly Blows Toward Northeastern Mexico

August 23, 1996

TAMPICO, Mexico (AP) _ Hurricane Dolly today hit Mexico for a second time, flooding towns along the Gulf Coast and forcing people to flee their homes hauling mattresses, bedding and plastic-wrapped televisions.

``Look what has happened to our houses. It’s very ugly,″ said Francisca Jerez Garcia, who sought shelter with her children at a grade school here.

The hurricane struck land about 8:45 a.m. just south of this port city, Tamaulipas state officials said.

``Yes there is damage. Yes there are evacuees. As to how many, we are still receiving information,″ said Gilberto Garcia, sub-director of civil defense for the border state.

Cars crept through hubcap-deep water past darkened stop lights this morning. There had been power outages in some areas and the winds had downed some street lights and tree limbs.

Residents of a poor, fishing neighborhood along the Rio Tameisi carried belongings from their shanty-type houses, trudging through muddy streets to reach shelter.

Most businesses were closed with plywood or steel grating over their windows. But buses were running and some grocery stores and gasoline stations had opened.

Dolly reached sustained winds of 80 mph before hitting land. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that by 10 a.m. (11 a.m. EDT), it was down to 75 mph and starting to weaken as it moved inland roughly 25 miles southwest of here.

To the east, Tropical Storm Edouard approached hurricane strength today as it cruised over the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, but remained about 1,500 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.

Dolly prompted hurricane warnings along Mexico’s northeastern coast from La Pesca, 155 miles from the Texas border, south to Veracruz. The storm was not expected to reach as far north as Texas.

Up to a foot of rain was expected along coastal areas in the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas, where flash flooding and mudslides were possible.

On Thursday, authorities evacuated 6,500 people in low-lying areas of Tampico as a precaution, a Red Cross official said. The port, boxed in by the Gulf to the east and lagoons to the west, is prone to flooding.

Tampico’s port was one of 37 along the Gulf closed because of high wind and waves. More than 450,000 people live in Tampico and neighboring Ciudad Madero.

Dolly briefly reached hurricane force of 74 mph when it first hit Mexico on Tuesday. Its journey across the Yucatan Peninsula knocked the wind back to about 35 mph a day later.

It regained strength in the Gulf for a second strike at Mexico _ Hurricanes tend to disintegrate when they reach land and strengthen when over warm water.

There have been no confirmed deaths, but there were reports of two fishermen missing in the Yucatan state of Quintana Roo. Officials said the storm destroyed 16 houses and damaged 26 others.

Petroleos Mexicanos, the state-owned oil company, on Thursday reopened one of the three major Gulf Coast oil-supply terminals it had closed Tuesday because of the storm.

Forecasters said they doubted the storm would swing north toward drought-parched Texas. But Texans weren’t taking any chances.

``We’re ready and waiting,″ said Manuel Gomez Jr., executive director of the west Cameron County chapter of the Red Cross.

County officials bought satellite telephones and portable generators, and released 55 prisoners because of fears the new jail wouldn’t hold up in a storm.

Drought-breaker or not, Dolly’s rain was a welcome sight for farmers in Texas’ Rio Grande valley.

``It’s a good start,″ said Wayne Labar, a cotton and grain producer. ``It’s going to be beneficial for the whole valley.″

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