September 2, 2006

Hurricane John whips Mexico’s Baja, power cut

By Antonio Alcantar

LA PAZ, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane John crept up Mexico's
Baja California peninsula on Saturday after blasting this
tourist port city with wicked winds and torrential rain that
knocked out power but caused no deaths.

John flattened trees and electric power poles and sent
advertising signs flying overnight in La Paz, a city of 200,000
people and the capital of Baja California Sur state.

Ankle-deep flooding on several main roads cut off most
streets around the city, and La Paz's airport remained closed.

"We are happy because we have a clean slate," said Jose
Gajon, head of the civil protection agency in the state. "No
one was killed."

After John felled up to 40 power poles, authorities cut off
the electricity supply to the entire city to prevent downed
wires from electrocuting people, rescue workers said.

Before John made landfall on Friday evening as a Category 2
storm, around 4,000 people living in low-lying areas of La Paz
were moved to shelters to ride out the storm.

John weakened on Saturday to a Category 1 hurricane but was
still packing winds of 80 mph (130 kph). Forecaster said they
expected it to lose more punch as it swirls over the peninsula.

Ester Aman, owner of the Angel Azul Hotel in La Paz, said
she could feel her old hotel building shaking as John lashed
the city. "It was like a strobe light in the sky," she said of
the constant lightning.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was
creeping northwest up the peninsula and was now located about
40 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 3 feet (1 meter) above normal
tide levels with battering waves were expected, and rain of 6
to 12 inches with isolated deluges of 18 inches

were possible, the center said.

On the western tip of the peninsula in the posh seaside
resort of Los Cabos, thousands of tourists and residents were
forced to escape John's wrath.

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

Tourists went back to their hotel rooms on Saturday and
were eager to restart their vacations after the storm brushed
by, dousing the resort with heavy rain and whipping up winds.

"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. Rescue
workers forced them to spend a second night in the shelters set
up for people living in areas facing the greatest threat from
flooding and winds.

Several roads in Los Cabos were flooded on Saturday, and
there was a possibility that those in shelters would have to
spend a third night away from their fragile homes.

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