Hurricane Dean weakened to a Category 2 storm after hitting Mexico's Caribbean coast yesterday, the US National Hurricane Center said.
When Dean made landfall earlier in the day, it had been a Category 5 cyclone, the strongest possible on the Saffir-Simpson scale and the strongest hurricane to hit land in the Atlantic region since 1988.
The eye of the storm hit land near Majahual, a port popular with cruise liners, and raced across the Yucatan Peninsula toward an entry into the Bay of Campeche, where the state oil company had evacuated the oil rigs that produce most of Mexico's oil.
In the Mayan town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, about 50km from the center of the storm, people stared from their porches at broken tree limbs and streets flooded with ankle-deep water.
Tin roofing ripped from houses clunked hollowly as it bounced in the still-strong winds that whistled through the town.
"We began to feel the strong winds about two in the morning and you could hear that the trees were breaking and some tin roofs were coming off," 36-year-old store clerk Miguel Colli said. "Everyone holed up in their houses. Thank God that the worst is over."
Dean's initial blow was a stroke of luck for Mexico, skirting most of the major resorts and making landfall in a sparsely populated area.
Governor Felix Gonzalez told Mexico's Televisa network that 250 small communities had been evacuated before Dean hit. There were no immediate reports of deaths, injuries or major damage, he said, although officials had not been able to survey the area.
The US National Hurricane Center said Dean would probably still be a hurricane when it enters the Bay of Campeche.