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Isidore Downgraded to Tropical Storm - 2002-09-23

Tropical storm Isidore continues to dump torrential rains on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where at least two deaths have been blamed on the massive weather system. Isidore was downgraded from a hurricane early Monday, but the storm could regain strength if, as expected, it re-emerges into the Gulf of Mexico.

Officials in the Yucatan Peninsula report extensive damage in and around the cities of Merida and Progreso. But they add that assessment teams have been hampered by massive flooding, power outages and downed telephone lines. Although Isidore's howling winds have died down, heavy rains continue to drench the region - a popular tourist destination known for its Mayan ruins.

Sunday, Isidore's punishing winds uprooted trees, blew out windows and tore roofs and balconies from houses, and sent dangerous debris hurtling through the air.

Weather forecasters say Isidore, which stalled over the Yucatan Peninsula Monday, will likely re-emerge in the Gulf of Mexico and could quickly strengthen once again.

"The storm is inland right now, but it is so close to the water that there is a high probability that it will go out to sea again," said Michael Formosa, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane Center. "And then, once it is over the water, it will have an opportunity to intensify back to a hurricane and then pose a threat to the Gulf region again."

Isidore could veer northward by Tuesday, eventually putting U.S. states from Texas to Florida at risk.

Meanwhile, weather forecasters are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Lili in the eastern Caribbean. Lili is moving rapidly on a westerly path, but could also strengthen in coming days.