Deadly winds howl into Monterrey
Web Posted: 03/18/2008 11:40 PM CDT
MONTERREY, Mexico — A violent wind storm with gusts up to 70 mph lashed this industrial city of 3.5 million Tuesday, killing at least one person, toppling countless billboards and blanketing the city in a grayish brown haze of sand and dust that eerily muted the sun.
The storm started early Tuesday and strong winds continued into the afternoon, with authorities warning people not to venture outside due to air pollution and flying debris.
Luis Miguel Tamayo was reading a newspaper in his apartment at 10:30 a.m. when he heard a cell phone tower come crashing down over the front of the building.
"It was very loud and then there was an explosion," Tamayo, 59, said as workers dismantled parts of the tower, which also hit an elevated urban rail line, knocking it out of service.
"There was fire coming from the tracks," he said.
Multimedios Radio reported that two people died as a result of the storm and that the main highway north to Laredo was temporarily closed due to a fire near a gas station.
The wind reignited a days-old forest fire that was almost contained Monday south of the city. It was blazing out of control, authorities said, and by mid-afternoon had claimed more than 6,000 acres, twice the toll of the day earlier.
Across the city, some 330,000 homes and businesses were reported without power due to dozens of fallen electricity lines. Roads were closed due to billboards that had fallen or were swaying precariously.
Many people could not resist the urge to see the destruction.
"It's drastic," Raúl Izaguirre, 65, said as he stood beside a creaking metal billboard that he said he saw barely miss a house and a packed bus as it fell. He said he has seen the aftermath of gulf hurricanes lash Monterrey but "this is the strongest (storm) for wind that I've ever seen."
"I have to confess I'm surprised, not only by the force but also of the duration" of the winds, said Jorge Camacho, the head of the state Civil Protection department.
"It has lasted too long. The climate is changing," he said. "I hope conditions are much better tomorrow but I believe we all know that with the climate you can never be sure."