The powerful storm packs 145 kilometer (90 mile) per hour winds as it makes landfall before dawn at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula
LA PAZ, Mexico (Sept. 7, 2016) — Hurricane Newton pummeled Mexico’s northwestern resort of Los Cabos on Tuesday, September 6, uprooting trees and blowing away tin roofs as thousands of tourists and locals hunkered down.
The powerful storm packed 145 kilometer (90 mile) per hour winds when it made landfall before dawn at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, two years after Hurricane Odile ravaged the region.
The US National Hurricane Center said in its latest bulletin that Newton was “battering Baja California Sur (state) with strong winds and heavy rains.”
But there were no immediate reports of deaths, national civil protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente wrote on Twitter.
While all highways were accessible, Puente urged “the population not to leave their homes if it is not necessary.”
“The winds are very strong,” Los Cabos civil protection director Marco Antonio Vazquez told AFP by telephone, adding that power was out before dawn.
“For now the damage includes a lot of branches, a lot of fallen plants, many trees,” Vazquez said, adding that he also saw telephone cables as well as tin roofs from poorer neighborhoods on the streets.
Vazquez said some hotel windows were reportedly shattered but that authorities were still assessing the possible damage.
Some 14,000 tourists are in Los Cabos and about 1,000 elsewhere in the region.
Some 1,500 people took refuge in shelters in Los Cabos, Vazquez said. Authorities opened shelters with capacity for 16,000 people across the state.
Local airports closed late Monday while small boats were barred from using the ports, with a storm surge expected to hit low-lying areas. Schools were shut down.
North of Los Cabos in the Baja California Sur capital of La Paz, locals put tape on shop windows and filled their cars with gasoline as the hurricane approached.
As it moved across the peninsula, Newton’s top winds decreased to 130 kilometers per hour. The US hurricane center’s latest advisory placed Newton 80 kilometers west of La Paz at 1500 GMT.
It had made landfall just 8 kilometers from the beach town of Cabo San Lucas.
Los Cabos, famed for its beaches and nightlife, was pummeled in September 2014 by Hurricane Odile which left six people dead and caused $1 billion in damage.
The eye of Newton is forecast to cross Baja California Sur before entering the Gulf of California and making a second landfall into the Mexican mainland on Wednesday.
The hurricane is expected to gradually weaken over the next 24 hours, the US center said.
“We didn’t expect Newton to enter the national territory. We didn’t expect it to become a hurricane,” Roberto Ramirez, director of the National Water Commission, told Radio Formula.
“It has had very erratic behavior since it emerged on Friday as a (weather) disturbance.”
The storm is due to produce up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) of rain in Baja California Sur and as much as 25 centimeters in several Pacific coast states, which could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the US hurricane center said.
A “dangerous” storm surge was expected to cause significant coastal flooding, it added.
Floods in south
Newton threatened to cause more mudslides and flooding in eight states along the Pacific coast, Mexican authorities said, adding that thousands of shelters were readied.
The weather system caused damage in the country’s south over the weekend before it became a tropical storm, with heavy rain blamed for three deaths in the southern state of Chiapas.
Torrential rain that began Saturday morning flooded some 1,400 homes and caused more than 30 landslides on highways in the southwestern state of Guerrero, civil protection authorities said.