September 1, 2006

Hurricane John spares resort

By Noel Randewich

LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane John slammed into
the Baja California peninsula on Friday night, forcing
thousands of tourists and residents in this posh beach resort
into shelters to escape high winds, angry seas and lashing

But the Los Cabos resort, popular with U.S. tourists and
famed for its beaches and Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses,
dodged a bullet as John did not make a direct hit, veering off
to the east as it made landfall.

Concern now shifted to the less-elegant tourist port of La
Paz, capital of Baja California Sur state and home to about
200,000 residents, which was close to the expected path of the
hurricane spinning up the east coast of the narrow peninsula.

Heavy rain pounded La Paz and main roads were flooded,
cutting off several.

Vacationers in Los Cabos, where winds still roared late
into Friday night, started to go back to their rooms after
their five-star hotels had forced them to sit the day out on
mattresses in shelters set up in conference rooms.

"We are tired and we want a shower," said Sherry Pruitt, on
vacation in Los Cabos with her husband Tony.

Its guests in a shelter for 24 hours, the Hotel Tesoro gave
the couple from Sacramento, California, and others the all
clear to go back to their room after the worst of the storm was
over and torrential rains had ceased.

But local residents in Los Cabos were less-fortunate as
rescue workers forced them to spend a second night in shelters
set up for people living in areas that were most imperiled by
flooding and winds.

"Nobody is leaving until the red alert is lifted," David
Manriquez, deputy director of Civil Protection in Los Cabos,
told Reuters. "That might happen Saturday morning."


Maria de Jesus Diaz, who was preparing to spend another
night in a shelter with three children, complained of a
shortage of food and was itching to go home to see if her house
of sheet metal and cardboard was still standing.

"We are bored and tired, just sitting and sleeping here,"
said the housewife, who said she lost her flimsy home and many
clothes in the last big storm to blow through the region.

John was downgraded to a Category 2 storm but still brought
winds of nearly 110 mph (175 kph), although some further
weakening is expected.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was 70
miles southeast of La Paz and creeping northwest.

"We have the 4,000 people who were in most danger in
shelters. We are ready," said the head of Civil Protection for
the state, Jose Gajon, who is based in La Paz.

John was forecast to rumble up the peninsula and eventually
edge out into the Pacific Ocean, posing no threat to the United

Coastal storm surges of up to 5 feet above normal tide
levels were expected and rainfall of 6 to 12 inches , with
isolated deluges of 18 inches, possible over southern Baja
California, the center said.

Many vacationers in Los Cabos took no chances and flew home
early, creating long lines at Los Cabos airport. One luxury
hotel sent its guests to San Diego, California, by bus.

(Additional reporting by Armando Tovar in Los Cabos and
Chris Aspin and Gunther Hamm in Mexico City)