GUAYMAS, Sonora — Hurricane Henriette left widespread flooding in the southern portions of Sonora as it swept through the Mexican state Wednesday, leaving residents of this fishing port facing a massive cleanup of streets and neighborhoods that began Thursday.
Crews were out in force picking up debris and mud in dump trucks while others used tractors to clear streets in the city of about 250,000.
"We've been cleaning practically nonstop since Wednesday night and probably will continue through Friday. We've been picking up trees, billboards, stranded cars and trash," said Manuel Avitia, a public-works department truck driver. "I estimate that we have hauled off 50 tons of mud alone," Avitia said.
Business owners and their workers swept sidewalks and shops — clearing away debris and water that reached 4 feet deep on the main thoroughfares Wednesday night.
"A lot of businesses are cleaning up mud that entered their shops because of mudslides from the hills that surround us," said Ana Cecilia Dena, owner of ice cream shop Paletería y Nevería La Flora de Michoacan.
"This storm was a small one compared to past storms. It rained hard for about three hours on Wednesday and then it stopped. Other storms have caused havoc throughout the entire night," said Dena.
Two men died during the storm, and about 70 houses were destroyed in the Rio Yaqui Valley, according to city officials and representatives of Mexico's family-services agency, Desarrollo Integral de la Familia or DIF.
Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours Castelo and Guaymas Mayor Antonio Francisco Astiazaran Gutierrez traveled to Yaqui communities to assess damages caused by the hurricane, which was downgraded to a tropical storm as it made its way through the state.
The governor declared a state of emergency, but estimates of monetary damage were not available Thursday.
Meanwhile, citizens took to the streets and volunteered their services.
Gerardo Escobedo Barco estimated that it would take several days to clear debris off the roads.
Downed trees and power lines cut off electricity to 300 households on the city's west side in Colonia Sahuaripa.
Ramon Paz Cervantes, a private security guard who said he has had no electricity since Wednesday, stared at a 30-foot-tall tree that crashed into a house, taking electrical lines with it.
"It is hot and humid, and no one has responded to our pleas," said Cervantes of his telephone calls to the Federal Electrical Commission. "The electrical lines are active and we are scared to remove the tree."
Damian Martinez, 23, a plant worker, said the tree is blocking the entrance to his mother's house. He said his mother is staying with him and his family.
"We are desperate. We need food and we are buying ice to try to keep our food from spoiling," said Agripino Escobedo García, 51, a federal government worker.
Blocks away the Rev. Jorge Figueroa Valenzuela and parishioners were sweeping water and mud out of San Francisco Javier Church.
"We received about a foot of water. We have a saying that goes 'When hurricanes hit here, even the saints get a bath,' " said the priest.
Nearly all 1,840 people who were evacuated and taken to shelters returned to their homes Thursday to assess damage. Most of the 21 shelters were shutting down, except for five in the Rio Yaqui Valley.
"We may reopen some shelters for families who find their homes destroyed and return here on Friday," said DIF director Carmen Acevedo.
The agency is distributing food, clothing, blankets, water and toiletries to families in need.
Nurse Maria de los Angeles Leyva Cervón said the public-health department is expected to begin a vaccination campaign, going to homes to educate and prevent the spread of respiratory and intestinal infections that are common after flooding occurs.
On StarNet: See more images from the areas hit by Hurricane Henriette at azstarnet.com/slideshows.
DID YOU KNOW ...
Other hurricanes that have been tracked through the Sea of Cortez include:
Hurricane Lester Aug. 19-27, 1992
Hurricane Ismael Sept. 12-17, 1995
Hurricane Fausto Sept. 8-14, 1996
Hurricane Isis Sept. 1-8, 1998
Hurricane Marty Sept. 21-26, 2003