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Storm's edge hits Baja



Published: Sat, September 2, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The effects of the hurricane were less than expected.

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP) -- Hurricane John's outer edge roared over the lightly populated eastern tip of the Baja California peninsula late Friday, but the category-2 storm appeared to spare the glistening resorts of Cabo San Lucas, authorities said.

John brought hurricane-force winds to coastal towns such as La Tienda, where government officials said flimsy homes would not be able to withstand the storm's 110 mph top sustained winds. But the storm's center was not expected to move over land, instead brushing past the peninsula.

"We're not certain it's going to make landfall," Chris Sisko, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said of the eye of the storm. "It's what we call a strike, and not an actual landfall on the peninsula."

Sisko said the storm would continue to lash Baja's eastern tip for hours, but that the twin resorts of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose Del Cabo appeared out of danger.

John wasn't likely to affect the United States; cooler Pacific waters tend to diminish storms before they reach California.

Luis Armando Diaz, mayor of the municipality encompassing both resorts, said: "Fortunately ... we don't have a frontal impact."

"That doesn't remove the possibility that we could still be affected," he added.

After the storm

Some streets were flooded in Cabo San Lucas, but the water was merely ankle-deep at its highest. Stores reopened two hours after hurricane-force winds first lashed the peninsula and residents antsy from spending all day in shelters emerged into the streets, where some started a pickup soccer game.

Known for the rugged beauty of their unique desert-ocean landscapes, the two resort cities of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula are studded with high-end golf courses.

The resorts are extremely popular with sports fishermen and celebrities. Rooms at some of the higher-end hotels go for more than $2,000 a night.

Stuck

On Friday, thousands of tourists who couldn't get flights out prepared to ride out the storm.

Shauna O'Leary and Sheree Bayeur, both from San Francisco, found themselves holed up in their hotel thinking of survival strategies.

"We've brought goggles," Bayeur quipped. "We're good swimmers, so I think we've got an advantage there."

"That water wasn't that high a few minutes ago," said Dale Broomfield, 26, a nurse from Adelaide, Australia, who negotiated a makeshift plank bridge over water that rose up between his hotel and an adjoining convention hall-turned-shelter in Cabo San Lucas.

Nearby, Guadalupe Amezcua, a 50-year-old tourist from Mexico City, set up camp on one of many mattresses on the floor of the hall, where windowless rooms provided protection from wind.

"This is like an adventure for us, but I've learned now: Never travel during hurricane season," Amezcua said as she folded her clothes.

"We came for the sun -- and now look!"

Residents' ordeal

Miles away from the glittering coastal hotels, 46-year-old bricklayer Francisco Casas Perez sat outside a schoolroom where he and his 14-year-old son spent the night. They were evacuated from their tin-roofed shack in Tierra y Libertad, one of the squatters camps that dot the sandy flats around Cabo San Lucas.

"We've been asking God to not let it hit too hard," he said. "We could lose all our possessions."

The Mexican Navy and police evacuated residents, sometimes forcibly, from Tierra y Libertad and other shantytowns, many of which are built next to usually dry riverbeds.

Casas Perez went voluntarily to the shelter, where people slept on thin pads stretched side-by-side over the concrete floor.

"The hurricane is no game, especially where we are surrounded by water on all sides," he said.

Olga Lidia Aguilar, 32, was evacuated from her tar-paper shack in the shantytown of Lagunita.

"We feel safer here," she said as she and her five children waited in line for free tuna salad and tortillas. "Our house could just blow away in the wind."

Up to 8,000 tourists remained in Cabo San Lucas on Friday; hundreds more foreigners are full-time residents.

Most visitors are American.

As the storm approached, the Hotel Tesoro told guests they could stay in their rooms at their own risk, but suggested they go the hotel's shelter or hunker down in their bathrooms.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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