| Mexico Evacuates Thousands as Jimena Rakes Baja Coast
| Wednesday, September 2, 2009
|Hurricane Jimena weakened to a Category 1 storm as it raked Mexico’s Baja California peninsula today with winds and rain, forcing thousands to flee.
Jimena’s maximum sustained winds were about 145 kilometers (90 miles) per hour at noon Los Cabos time, down from as high as 249 kph early yesterday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on its Web site. The hurricane was centered 95 kilometers north of Cabo San Lazaro and was moving north-northwest at 20 kph.
“It is interacting with the Baja peninsula and it is going to weaken over the next couple of days,” said Alex Sosnowski, a senior expert meteorologist with AccuWeather.com in State College, Pennsylvania. “Jimena is blasting central and southern Baja at this time with hurricane-force winds, several inches of rain and flash-flooding and mudslide issues.”
Jimena is a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest on the five- step Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricane-force winds extend as far as 55 kilometers from Jimena’s center, and tropical storm-force winds reached out 220 kilometers, the center said. At its peak, Jimena was at the cusp of Category 5.
Forecasters also are monitoring an Atlantic system, Tropical Storm Erika, off Guadeloupe. The storm was moving west at 17 kph and maximum winds decreased to 64 kph from 85 kph earlier today, the center said in an advisory at about 2 p.m. Miami time.
Baja California Sur set up 35 emergency shelters to house as many as 30,000 people, Audel Alvarez, head of training for civil protection for the Mexican state, said yesterday in a telephone interview. Authorities evacuated about 3,000 people and dispatched 300 security personnel to guard empty homes.
“The whole state is vulnerable,” Alvarez said. The government has also distributed 25,000 emergency food packets containing cookies, powdered milk, tuna and beans.
Eight families were rescued in the town of Constitucion after the wind blew the roofs off their houses, he said, and contact was cut off to the fishing village of Comondu.
Schools in the Los Cabos and La Paz regions of Baja California Sur, which had been ordered closed for five days, will instead reopen tomorrow. The Los Cabos area in the south of the peninsula includes Cabo San Lucas and a 33-kilometer stretch of beach resorts.
The government today discontinued a hurricane warning for the southern tip of Baja. A hurricane warning, indicating such conditions are expected within a day, was in place for Agua Blanca northward to Punta Abreojos on Baja’s west coast, and from La Paz to Mulege on the east coast. Tropical-storm watches and warnings were in place in other parts of the peninsula and on the Mexican mainland.
Jimena’s rains won’t reach southern California and give firefighters there any relief from wildfires, Sosnowski said by telephone. The storm will either move across the Mexican mainland into the U.S. near New Mexico and Arizona, where it will bring thunderstorms, or it will turn back out into the Pacific, Sosnowski said.
“There is a roadblock there for any appreciable moisture to get into California,” he said.
In the Caribbean, Erika prompted tropical-storm warnings for Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, the hurricane center said. France has issued a warning for Guadeloupe.
Sosnowski said Erika may reach hurricane strength. However, the storm has to contend with dry air which may inhibit its growth. The threat from Erika will probably be rain, he said.
“The big factor for this thing is drenching rainfall,” Sosnowski said. “It is going to be a rain producer rather than a big wind producer.”
Most U.S. oil and gas platforms are farther west, in the Gulf of Mexico. The largest refinery in the Caribbean is operated by Hovensa LLC in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Hovensa officials monitored a previous tropical storm, Ana, last month, without having to close the refinery.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 10:18 PM