World

Hurricane Lorena skirts east coast of Mexico's Baja

Hurricane Lorena skirted along the east coast of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula late Friday, prompting new warnings and watches for coastal areas but apparently sparing a direct hit on the resort-studded twin cities of Los Cabos.

Hurricane warnings still in place for parts of peninsula

Residents wade along a flooded road during a rainstorm caused by tropical storm Lorena on the outskirts of Manzanillo, in Colima state, Mexico, on Thursday. Lorena was forecast to regain its punch as it headed toward Los Cabos on Friday. (Jesus Lozoya/Reuters)

Hurricane Lorena skirted along the east coast of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula late Friday, prompting new warnings and watches for coastal areas but apparently sparing a direct hit on the resort-studded twin cities of Los Cabos.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Lorena was a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of  130 km/h, and its centre was about 65 kilometres east-southeast of the Baja California Sur state capital, La Paz. It was heading to the north-northwest at 13 km/h on a forecast track parallel to the coast through the Sea of Cortez.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the peninsula between Santa Rosalia and Puerto Cortes, and a hurricane watch was announced for northern parts of the peninsula and the Mexican mainland from Altata to Bahia.

For days, forecasts had predicted likely landfall in or a near miss with Los Cabos, but at the last minute the storm took a path well east of the glitzy resort area.

Earlier Friday, residents and tourists in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo hunkered down in homes, shelters and hotels amid warnings of damaging winds, flash floods and life-threatening surf.

Police and soldiers went through low-lying, low-income neighbourhoods in Los Cabos urging people to evacuate. Locals who have been through past hurricanes took no chances, pulling boats from the water and boarding up windows and doors.

Authorities in Los Cabos said 787 people had taken refuge at 18 storm shelters.

It kicked up strong waves in the twin resorts, but by early evening the clouds cleared partially and people ventured onto the beach to view the ocean.

Forecasters expected the storm to pass over or near the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. (Jesus Lozoya/Reuters)

The two cities remained under a hurricane warning late Friday, though the hurricane centre's latest projection had them outside the cone of uncertainty with Lorena's centre well to the north and heading away.

Civil defence official Carlos Godinez said an American tourist who went to the beach in Los Cabos with his son died after being swept out to sea. The son survived. But Godinez said the death occurred early Thursday, before beach access was restricted, and that it was "not necessarily attributable" to Lorena.

A second cyclone, tropical storm Mario, was several hundred kilometres south of the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula but was not immediately forecast to pose a threat to land.

Authorities in Los Cabos had closed the port and suspended classes for Friday and prepared to use schools as shelters if necessary.

Lorena came onshore a day earlier as a hurricane in the western Mexican state of Colima, whipping palm trees with its strong winds and lashing the area with rain. It flooded streets, washed out roads and touched off minor slides in 10 municipalities. Dozens of trees were downed, and power was knocked out in some areas.

Colima state Gov. Jose Ignacio Peralta said more than 3,000 hectares of crops such as bananas and papayas were damaged statewide, but there were no deaths or significant damage to infrastructure.

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