Hurricane batters Baja California’s coast
Largest resort appears to escape major damage
LOS CABOS, Mexico - Heavy winds, battering waves, and intense rain pummeled residents and tourists in this vacation resort as dangerous Hurricane Jimena, one of the largest hurricanes this year, raked Baja California’s southern coast late yesterday.
The state prepared shelters for 29,000 people as Jimena, which weakened to a still threatening Category 3, churned northward with 115 mile-per-hour winds.
But Baja California’s biggest resort, Los Cabos, appeared to be escaping major damage from the storm beyond power outages and mud-choked roads.
Ashley Legeyt, 62, a retiree from British Columbia who lives in Cabo San Lucas, pushed through the oncoming storm onto an exposed rocky point, where he leaned against the onslaught of the hurricane’s outer winds.
“It’s like getting sandblasted with water!’’ said Legeyt, his back to the wind, sand and spray blowing in from the ocean. “It’s quite strong.’’
The Mexican government declared a state of emergency for Los Cabos and the Baja California Sur state capital of La Paz, and schools, many ports, and most businesses were closed. Rescue workers from the Red Cross and the Mexican military prepared for post-hurricane disaster relief, and two Mexican Army
Jimena’s core was on course to pass near or over southern Baja California today and the central part of the peninsula late tonight or early tomorrow, according to the National Hurricane Service. Its center was missing the peninsula’s resort-studded southern tip, instead heading for landfall farther north on a desolate stretch of desert coastline.
Its outer fringes were lashing the resorts, however, kicking up huge waves and flooding streets.
Authorities reported no injuries or major damages in Los Cabos, but expressed concern about what might happen when the hurricane made landfall farther up the coast.
“It could be ugly at Bahia Magdalena,’’ state Interior Secretary Luis Armanado Diaz said, referring to a sparsely populated bay with a smattering of fishing villages.
Diaz said the hurricane might help alleviate the state’s drought.
“If it continues like this, and there is not a major impact, it will help more than it will hurt,’’ said Diaz, referring to the much-needed rain.
Residents and tourists gathered yesterday to watch the huge waves battering the shore near Cabo San Lucas, as the wind whipped up sand and salt spray.
Los Cabos resident Eduardo Meraz, 25, went swimming in the pounding surf at the height of the storm, and - still dripping wet - said he liked it.
“I’m not afraid. I respect the sea,’’ said Meraz. “The water is nice but the waves really toss you around.’’
Paula Arenas took her 2-year-old nephew Mauro out to a rock outcropping to see the hurricane.
“I’ve spent a lot of time living here. We are used to hurricanes,’’ Arenas said.
Francisco Cota, head of Los Cabos civil defense, said more than 2,000 people from low-lying neighborhoods and squatters’ camps had sought refuge in shelters at schools, and many more were staying with relatives in safer areas.
Forecasters predicted the hurricane would drop 5 to 10 inches of rain in Baja, and dry stream beds already were gushing torrents.
Most tourists had already fled yesterday, leaving 75 percent of hotel rooms vacant.