Hurricane Jimena slammed into Mexico’s Baja California peninsula around midday on Wednesday, forcing tourists to either flee from 2009's strongest storm or take shelter in boarded-up hotels and emergency shelters.
AFP - Hurricane Jimena ripped through humble fishing villages on Mexico's Baja California peninsula on Wednesday, overturning rickety buildings and causing major coastal flooding across the region.
Downgraded to a weaker but still deadly Category One hurricane as she made landfall, Jimena brought torrential rains and winds upwards of 90 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour).
In the fishing village of Puerto San Carlos residents ignored evacuation orders to try and hold onto their scant possessions, but rushed back to local schools serving as makeshift shelters as the eye of the storm passed on.
Streets turned to mud as bowed lamp posts dangled dangerously over rain-lashed roads littered with trees and other vegetation hurled around by Jimena's mighty gusts.
Many of the 4,000 villagers had defied pleas to seek refuge, preferring instead to guard their possessions. They now picked through soaked belongings in roofless homes.
At 2100 GMT Jimena's center was some 225 kilometers (140 miles) northwest of La Paz, the capital of Baja California state.
It was marching in a northwesterly direction up the peninsula at 21 kilometers (13 miles) per hour, and was forecast to sharply turn west back into the Pacific around midday Thursday.
Twenty-one-year-old Paola Torres endured a night of terror with her husband and two small children as the storm bore down on their home, cutting electricity, phone lines and water supplies.
"We tried to hide in the bathroom, but the wind tore off the wooden door," she told AFP.
Troops deployed to the areas by the Mexican government after a state of emergency was declared in much of Baja California said there had been no reports of fatalities thus far.
The luxury tourist resorts on the southern tip of the peninsula around Los Cabos were spared a direct hit from 2009's most powerful hurricane so far, and most of the foreigners had long-since departed before Jimena struck.
Having missed the southern resorts and La Paz, Jimena crossed land near the middle of the peninsula -- a sparsely populated area, home mostly to fishing communities.
While thousands of tourists had deserted the resorts in recent days, villagers and slum dwellers further north on the largely arid, mountainous spit of land had no choice but to tough it out.
Last-minute thrill-seekers had dipped Tuesday into the massive surf of Palmilla Beach, while officials struggled to convince locals to seek emergency shelter.
Regional authorities prepared 147 temporary shelters stocked with water and food supplies that were equipped with medical and psychological aid.
More than 15,000 families deemed to be living in high-risk zones -- prone to flooding or near the coast -- were evacuated on Tuesday, but thousands more stayed put.
Across the region, the local hotel association estimated that some 7,000 tourists would have left or been evacuated by the time the storm arrived.
The "Mariner of the Seas" cruise ship -- the second-largest in the world -- canceled a scheduled stop at the upscale Los Cabos resort destination with some 5,000 passengers aboard.
In Los Cabos, hotels felt the pinch after a major international tax conference organized by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had to be moved to Mexico City because of the storm.
An estimated 2,000 tourists, many of them American, fled the resort strip as Jimena approached and the beaches, ports and the airport were all closed to the public on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center warned that another storm, named Erika, had formed Tuesday in the Atlantic and would pass near the Leeward Islands in the coming days.
Date created : 2009-09-03