According to The Associated Press, Hurricane Dean strengthened into a monstrous Category 5 storm Monday night as its outer bands of wind and rain slammed the coasts of Mexico and Belize. It weakened, however, within hours to a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. Thousands of tourists fled the beaches of the Mayan Riviera as it roared toward the Yucatan Peninsula and dozens of historically significant Mayan sites were emptied. Though expected to escape a direct hit, Cancun still could face destructive winds. The hurricane center said Dean could gain power as it crosses the Bay of Campeche, and would likely be a major hurricane when it makes landfall a second time on Wednesday.
Trees fell and debris flew through the air in Corozal on Belize's northern border with Mexico. The government had evacuated Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye - both popular with U.S. tourists - and ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew from Belize City to the Mexican border. The storm's track is expected to carry it into the central Mexican coast about 400 miles south of the Texas border.
The AP also reports Dean, which has killed at least 12 people across the Caribbean, quickly picked up strength after brushing Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The center of Dean passed about 125 miles to the south of Grand Cayman, although heavy rain, high winds, dangerous surf and storm surge all impacted the destination on Monday, according to Tim Ballisty, meteorologist for The Weather Channel.