Hurricane Lorena's 'highly uncertain' path threatens Los Cabos

Residents and tourists hunkered down in homes, shelters and hotels as Hurricane Lorena menaced Mexico’s resort-studded Los Cabos area Friday, threatening damaging winds, flash floods and life-threatening surf along the Baja California peninsula.

The U.S. National Hurricane Centre (NHC) reported that the storm’s eye was hugging the southern end of the peninsula as of mid-afternoon, and said Lorena’s future track was “highly uncertain.” 

Authorities in Los Cabos said 787 people have taken refuge at 18 storm shelters.

“If we don’t get the yacht out, the waves can damage it,” said Juan Hernandez, who rents his craft to foreign visitors. It’s “a preventative measure for when a cyclone threatens.”

The NHC upgraded Lorena to a Category 1 hurricane early Friday, and later announced maximum sustained winds had increased to 140 km/h, and its centre was about 95 kilometres north-northeast of Cabo San Lucas. After stalling, it was moving again toward the northwest at 8 km/h.

It kicked up strong waves earlier in the day at the twin resorts of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. The clouds cleared somewhat in the evening in Los Cabos, and at least a handful of people ventured onto the beach to view the ocean. 

The two cities remained under a hurricane warning, though the hurricane centre’s latest projection now put them outside the cone of uncertainty for the storm’s path. 

Earlier, police and soldiers went through low-lying neighbourhoods, urging people to leave. Locals who have been through hurricanes took no chances, pulling boats from the water and boarding up windows and doors. 

But by early evening, the storm was already kicking up heavy waves under dark skies at the twin resorts of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. 

Civil defence official Carlos Godinez said Friday a tourist who went to the beach in Los Cabos with his son died after being swept out to sea. The son survived. But Godinez said the death occurred early Thursday, before beach access was restricted, and it was “not necessarily attributable” to Lorena.

A second tropical storm, Mario, was about 555 kilometres south of the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula late Thursday and had sustained winds of 100 km/h. But it wasn’t expected to hit land.

Authorities suspended classes for Friday and prepared to use schools as shelters if necessary. The port of Cabo San Lucas was closed to navigation.

“We are taking preventive measures,” said Baja California Sur state government secretary-general Alvaro de la Pena. “Rations, gasoline, all supplies are guaranteed. There is no need for panic buying.”

A total of 177 properties were available as potential shelters in five municipalities of the state. The region was in a state of yellow alert and anticipating heavy rains.

“Lorena is going to dump a lot of water,” said Carlos Alfredo Godinez, deputy secretary for civil defence in the state.

Lorena came onshore a day earlier as a hurricane in the western Mexican state of Colima, whipping palm trees about with its strong winds and lashing the area with sheets of rain. It flooded streets, washed out roads and touched off minor slides in 10 municipalities. Dozens of trees were downed, and power was knocked out in some areas.

Forecasters expected the storm to pass over or near the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. (Jesus Lozoya/Reuters)

Colima Gov. Jose Ignacio Peralta said nearly 20 centimetres of rain had fallen in a little under 24 hours, and more than 3,000 hectares of crops such as bananas and papayas were damaged statewide.

But there were no deaths or significant damage to infrastructure, he said.

Lorena’s brush with land caused it to lose strength and become a tropical storm, but it was forecast to regain its punch as it headed toward Los Cabos.

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