By Edgar Avila Perez
Mexico City, Aug 21 (EFE).- Grace weakened from a Category 3 hurricane to a tropical storm within hours of making landfall early Saturday on Mexico’s Gulf coast, but torrential downpours caused mudslides that claimed seven lives and much of the central part of the county faces continued heavy rain.
The first major hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season came ashore in Veracruz state around 12:30 am (05:30 UTC) with maximum sustained winds of 200 km/h (125 mph).
It was the second Mexican landfall for Grace, which swept across the Yucatan peninsula on Thursday.
Rains from Grace caused widespread flooding in Xalapa, the Veracruz state capital, and mudslides in the shantytowns at the feet of the surrounding mountains.
Seven people, including a minor, were killed and three others remained missing as a result of the mudslides.
By 10:00 am (15:00 UTC), Grace had been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Three hours later, the storm was packing winds of 75 km/h (45 mph) and located 55 km (35 mi) northwest of Mexico City, heading to the west at 20 km/h (13 mph), according to Mexico’s SMN weather service.
Capital residents should be prepared for wind and intense rain, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said on Twitter, adding that authorities were ready to deal with flooding.
Some areas in Grace’s path are expected to receive as much as 30.48 cm (12 in) of rain.
The storm damaged hundreds of homes in Veracruz, especially in the mainly rural northern part of a state that is also a hub of Mexico’s oil and petrochemical industries.
Many people were without power or cell phone service and communities found themselves cut off as flooding forced authorities to close roads.
The three largest rivers in northern Veracruz – Cazones, Actopan and La Antigua – were above flood stage at some points, Mexico’s National Water Commission said.
Units of the Mexican army have been deployed to the affected zone to aid first responders.
In Xalapa, some 106 km (64 mi) from where Grace made landfall in Tecolutla, streets, shopping centers and entire neighborhoods were partially submerged.
State police were seen rescuing residents from flooded homes in the Martires de Chicago neighborhood.
Dozens of drivers found themselves stranded as roads were transformed into muddy streams.
Emergency declarations have been issued for 22 municipalities in the state, Gov. Cuitlahuac Garcia Jimenez said, urging people who feel at risk to head for the temporary shelters set up across Veracruz. EFE