Dangerous hurricane heads for Mexico resort
Hurricane Jimena, a dangerous Category 4 storm, churned toward Mexico's Baja California peninsula on Monday, headed for the upscale Los Cabos resort where residents sandbagged their homes and tourists stocked up on food, Reuters reported.
Jimena, which built up fast over the weekend, got even stronger, packing 150 mph winds with higher gusts. According to the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, Category 4 hurricanes are "extremely dangerous" and can cause devastating damage if they hit land.
"I'm scared. I'm taking the kids back to the hotel right now -- I hope we'll be safe there," said tourist Gigi Hernandez from California, at a marina.
Much of Baja California is sparsely populated desert and mountains but Los Cabos is a lively resort area popular with U.S. tourists for its world-class golf courses, yachting and beaches.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast Jimena would hit the area on Tuesday and move inland on Wednesday.
Los Cabos, at the tip of the peninsula, was overcast and drizzly.
The port of Cabo San Lucas was shut and a line of trailers formed as yachts, water taxis and glass-bottomed tourist boats were taken out of the water for safety.
Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the area. The hurricane center predicted significant coastal flooding and said: "Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion."
Economy officials from dozens of countries were due to meet in Los Cabos on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss tax havens, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development moved the talks to Mexico City as the storm threat grew.
The meeting was "transferred to Mexico City because of the threat of severe damage posed by Hurricane Jimena," the Paris-based group said in a statement.
The length of the Baja California peninsula is popular with U.S. camper van enthusiasts, nature lovers, surfers, sports fishermen and retirees.
The hurricane center said Jimena could dump 5 to 10 inches of rain on the southern portion of Baja California.
Jimena was located about 340 miles south of Cabo San Lucas and moving northwest, roughly parallel to the Mexican coastline, at 8 mph. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 30 miles from its center.
Many tourists said they preferred to cut short their vacation than spend two days in a storm shelter.
"I don't want to get stuck here," said Neil Freese, 29, from San Francisco as he hurried to the airport.
Mexico has no oil installations in the Pacific and ports in the area remained open.
Jimena is the second hurricane of the 2009 eastern Pacific season to brush close to Mexico after Andres pounded the coast in June and swept a fisherman to his death in Acapulco.