Powerful Hurricane Odile aims at Mexico’s Baja

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SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) Hurricane Odile grew into a major storm Sunday and took aim at the resort area of Los Cabos, prompting Mexican authorities to evacuate vulnerable coastal areas and prepare shelters for up to 30,000 people.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Odile’s core was on a track to pass close to or directly over the southern end of the Baja California Peninsula late Sunday and into Monday.

“All preparedness actions to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the center said in a bulletin.

Rain began falling at midafternoon, hours before the storm’s expected arrival.

Odile’s maximum sustained winds were 125 (205 kph) Sunday afternoon, down a bit from earlier in the day. Its center was about 140 miles (225 kilometers) south-southeast of the southern tip of Baja California and was moving to the northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).

David Korenfeld, director of Mexico’s National Water Commission, described Odile as “highly dangerous.”

After reaching Category 4 strength Sunday, Odile was downgraded to Category 3. But it was still a major storm that threatened to bring high winds, deadly surf and heavy rains to Baja and parts of the mainland, and forecasters said it could strengthen again as it approached land.

Some 800 marines were on standby, and officials readied heavy equipment to help out in areas where mudslides could occur. Police with megaphones walked through vulnerable areas in Cabo San Lucas urging neighbors to evacuate.

“I’m leaving. It’s very dangerous here,” said Felipa Flores, clutching a plastic bag with a few belongings as she took her two small children from her neighborhood of El Caribe to a storm shelter. “Later on we’re going to be cut off and my house of wood and laminated cardboard won’t stand up to much.”

Long lines formed at gas stations and supermarkets as residents stocked up on food, bottled water, flashlights and batteries.

Some went to the shore to take photos and video of the ocean as the waves picked up and the skies darkened.

Gusty winds whipped palm trees, waves pounded the rocky coastline and fluttering black flags signaled that beaches were closed due to high surf.

At least 22 airline flights were canceled, and some tourists said they were stranded. Others at the Los Cabos international airport were trying to leave before conditions got too bad.

“Hopefully we can still leave here and get out before the hurricane strikes,” said Paul Aguilar, a visitor from Riverside, California, with a marked sunglasses tan line around his eyes.

Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator for Mexico’s civil protection agency, said 164 shelters had been prepared for as many as 30,000 people in the state of Baja California Sur. He said occupancy in hotels was low, but tourists were warned to stay inside in the safer areas of the hotels and keep away from doors and windows.

Hotel officials distributed movies and board games to guests in anticipation of everyone having to hunker down inside later in the day. Workers put protective plastic sheeting over windows. Guests were advised to have their bags packed and passports at the ready.

Ann Montalvo, a tourist from California staying at the Westin resort, said hotel workers seemed to be taking the right steps to ensure guests’ safety, and she wasn’t worried.

“I live in the San Francisco area where we have earthquakes, so we’re always kind of on our toes anyway,” Montalvo said.

Besides being powerful, Odile was also a large storm.

The hurricane center said hurricane-force winds extended outward from the center up to 50 miles (85 kilometers) and tropical storm-force winds as far as 185 miles (295 kilkometers).

It warned that a dangerous storm surge could produce coastal flooding accompanied by large, destructive waves. Rainfall of 5 to 10 inches was expected, along with isolated amounts up to 15 inches.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Baja California Sur from Punta Abreojos to La Paz. Mexican authorities declared a maximum alert for areas in or near Odile’s path, and ports in Baja California were to remain closed.

Korenfeld said there was also a chance the storm could track into the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, and as a precaution authorities were on high alert.

In the central Atlantic, Tropical Storm Edouard strengthened into a hurricane with sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), although it was expected to remain far out at sea and pose no threat to land.

The U.S. hurricane center said Edouard’s center was 860 miles (1,385 kilometers) northeast of the northern Leeward Islands and was moving northwest at 14 mph (22 kph).

 

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