Hurricane Odile thrashes Mexico beach resorts
Hurricane Odile knocked down trees and power lines in Mexico\’s Baja California peninsula on Monday as thousands of tourists took refuge in hotels converted into shelters along popular resorts.
Odile weakened to category two on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale but still packed powerful winds of 175 kilometers (110 miles) per hour after crashing ashore overnight near Cabo San Lucas, according to the US National Hurricane Center.
Some 24,000 foreign tourists and 6,000 Mexican beachgoers spent the night in hotels where conference rooms were transformed into shelters.
As many as 7,000 residents were evacuated from vulnerable areas and took refuge in shelters or with relatives, said National Civil Protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente.
The storm took down trees, power lines and roof tiles as it crashed into Baja California late Sunday as a major category three hurricane.
No victims were immediately reported after townspeople spent the night in the dark.
Gordon Peter, a 65-year-old US tourist, had been in Los Cabos for a week when his flight home was canceled on Sunday.
"I\’m not afraid but I want to go home," he said before spending the night in his hotel lobby. "I could not find another hotel room."
Early Monday, Odile was swirling northward over the peninsula at 26 kilometers (16 miles) per hour and was expected to weaken steadily as it moves upland through Tuesday, the US hurricane center said.
The deep blue sea grew fiercely turbulent, gray and foamy with massive waves.
"It took us by surprise. The sea is rough. I think this is going to get very ugly," Steve Clement, a surfer from Hawaii, told AFP.
Operations at Los Cabos International Airport were suspended.
Authorities cut power in Cabo San Lucas to prevent electrocutions, closed schools and called off independence day festivities.
Hundreds of troops were deployed to help the population.
Steady rain soaked the peninsula and forecasters predicted accumulations of up to 30 centimeters (one foot) through Friday, raising the risk of deadly floods and mudslides.
"The tourists are not panicking," said Daniel Manzini, assistant manager at the Hyatt Place hotel in San Jose del Cabo, which was nearly full.
About 150 local residents took shelter in a primary school in Cabo San Lucas.
"My house has a tin roof. We are left to spend this night here, and God knows how many more," mother of six Fermina Gonzales said while nursing her youngest at the shelter.
Outside, palm trees and highway signs were bent by the wind, while power lines swayed dangerously near the asphalt.
The hurricane hit the Pacific coast around the one-year anniversary of a twin tropical storm battering on both coasts that left 157 people dead.