Cabo San Lucas, Sept 02: Hurricane John roared over the lightly populated eastern tip of the Baja California peninsula late Friday, but the storm appeared to spare the glistening resorts of Los Cabos, authorities said.
The storm`s eye came ashore Friday evening about 20 miles northeast of San Jose del Cabo, and the storm was moving north at 9 mph.
Forecasters said it would likely lash the state capital of La Paz with top sustained winds of 110 mph before crossing the narrow stretch of land and heading out to sea.
John wasn`t likely to affect the United States; cooler Pacific waters tend to diminish storms before they reach California.
Luis Armando Diaz, mayor of the municipality encompassing both resorts of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, said: "Fortunately ... we don`t have a frontal impact."
But, he added, "That doesn`t remove the possibility that we could still be affected."
Some streets were flooded in Cabo San Lucas, but the water was merely ankle-deep at its height. Stores reopened two hours after hurricane-force winds first lashed the peninsula and residents antsy from spending all day in shelters emerged into the streets, where some started a pickup soccer game.
Known for the rugged beauty of their unique desert-ocean landscapes, the two resort cities of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula are studded with high-end golf courses. The resorts are extremely popular with sports fishermen and celebrities. Rooms at some of the higher end hotels go for more than $2,000 a night.
In San Jose del Cabo, a brief bout of heavy winds toppled the signs of shops and sent metal gates flying in the air. But there were no reports of major damage.
On Friday, thousands of tourists who couldn`t get flights out prepared to ride out the storm.
"That water wasn`t that high a few minutes ago," said Dale Broomfield, 26, a nurse from Adelaide, Australia, who negotiated a makeshift plank bridge over water that rose up between his hotel and an adjoining convention hall-turned-shelter in Cabo San Lucas.
Nearby, Guadalupe Amezcua, a 50-year-old tourist from Mexico City, set up camp on one of many mattresses on the floor of the hall, where windowless rooms provided protection from wind.
"This is like an adventure for us, but I`ve learned now: never travel during hurricane season," Amezcua said as she folded her clothes.
"We came for the sun — and now look!"
Miles away from the glittering coastal hotels, 46-year-old bricklayer Francisco Casas Perez sat outside a schoolroom where he and his 14-year-old son spent the night. They were evacuated from their tin-roofed shack in Tierra y Libertad, one of the squatters camps that dot the sandy flats around Cabo San Lucas.
"We`ve been asking God to not let it hit too hard," he said. "We could lose all our possessions."
The Mexican Navy and police evacuated residents, sometimes forcibly, from Tierra y Libertad and other shantytowns, many of which are built next to usually dry riverbeds.
Casas Perez went voluntarily to the shelter, where people slept on thin pads stretched side-by-side over the concrete floor.
"The hurricane is no game, especially where we are surrounded by water on all sides," he said.
Olga Lidia Aguilar, 32, was evacuated from her tar-paper shack in the shantytown of Lagunita.
"We feel safer here," she said as she and her five children waited in line for free tuna salad and tortillas. "Our house could just blow away in the wind."
Up to 8,000 tourists remained in Cabo San Lucas on Friday; hundreds more foreigners are full-time residents. Most visitors are American.
The National Hurricane Center warned that John could fuel storm surges of up to 5 feet above normal tide and bring 6 to 10 inches of rain, possibly causing "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides" over mountainous areas.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Kristy churned farther out in the Pacific Ocean on Friday, with maximum sustained winds of 58 mph, and forecasters at the US Hurricane Center in Miami said it could eventually be absorbed by John.