September 2, 2006

Hurricane John cuts power in La Paz

By Antonio Alcantar

LA PAZ, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane John rumbled up
Mexico's Baja California peninsula on Saturday after roughing
up this tourist port overnight with wicked winds and torrential
rain that knocked out power.

Rescue workers began assessing damages and possible deaths
in La Paz -- where about 200,000 people live -- when daylight

"The hurricane passed close by, or right over us, and cut
power to the entire city," La Paz civil protection worker
Adrian Romero said in an interview.

"When the sun comes up we'll do a full evaluation, right
now we can't, we can't see. There is no power."

La Paz is capital of Baja California Sur state and roads
flooded from the heavy rain, cutting off several routes.

Before John made landfall Friday as a Category 2 storm,
around 4,000 people living in vulnerable low-lying areas of the
city were moved to shelters to ride out the storm. Rescue
worker Romero said they passed the night safely.

John weakened on Saturday to a Category 1 hurricane, but
was still packing winds of 85 mph (160 kph). The storm was
forecast to lose more punch as it swirled over the peninsula.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was
creeping northwest up the peninsula and now located about 10
miles northwest of La Paz.

John was forecast to churn up the east coast of the
peninsula and then out into the Pacific Ocean, posing no threat
to the United States.


Coastal storm surges of up to 5 feet above normal tide
levels with battering waves were expected, and rain of six to
12 inches with isolated deluges of 18 inches were possible, the
center said.

On the western tip of the peninsula in the luxurious
seaside resort of Los Cabos, thousands of tourists and
residents had been forced into shelters to escape John's wrath.

Five-star hotels in Los Cabos had sent vacationers to sit
out most of Friday on mattresses in shelters set up in
conference rooms.

But when the storm brushed close by, only dumping heavy
rain and whipping up winds, tourists went back to their rooms
and were keen to restart their holidays on Saturday.

"I want to enjoy Cabos, go clubbing and go to the beach,"
said Lisa Perez, who was on a break from running her furniture
store in California.

Local residents in Los Cabos were less fortunate, however,
as rescue workers forced them to spend a second night in the
shelters set up for people living in areas in most danger from
flooding and winds.

They were expected to return to their fragile homes early
Saturday when alerts were lifted.

In October, Hurricane Wilma hit Cancun and other beach
resorts on Mexico's Caribbean coast. It caused heavy damage,
eroding large stretches of beach and stranded tens of thousands
of tourists for days.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich and Armando Tovar in Los