CHETUMAL, Mexico — Tropical Storm Ernesto spun across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday, then edged into the Gulf of Mexico after forcing the evacuation of thousands of tourists and fishermen from beaches in Tulum and the Costa Maya.
There were no reports of storm deaths or major damage, though Ernesto ripped down billboards, toppled trees and cut electricity service as it hit the cruise ship port of Mahahual shortly before midnight Tuesday as a hurricane with sustained winds of 85 mph. It stayed south of the Yucatan's main resorts around Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Ernesto weakened to a tropical storm while moving over land Wednesday, but strengthened a bit in the afternoon with sustained winds near 50 mph. It was expected to regain more strength after emerging over the extreme southern Gulf of Mexico in a region dotted with offshore oil rigs.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening the storm was about 20 miles east-northeast of Ciudad del Carmen, and was moving west at 7 mph. It's projected to make a second landfall tonight near the key oil port of Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz state.