Residents of Mexican resorts in Los Cabos rushed to prepare as Hurricane Norma headed toward the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and was expected to make landfall on Saturday, while in the Atlantic, Hurricane Tammy threatened to devastate the islands of the Lesser Antilles.
Businesses in Cabo San Lucas nailed sheets of plywood to their windows and government workers hung banners warning people not to cross ravines and riverbeds after Norma regained strength Friday and became a major storm again.
By early Saturday, Norma had weakened slightly and was downgraded to Category 2 on the hurricane wind scale. According to the US National Hurricane Center, it was located 30 miles west-southwest of the Cabo San Lucas storm with winds of 100 miles per hour (155 km/h) and a speed of 8 miles per hour.
Norma was expected to continue this path through the evening before turning northeast and slowing through Monday.
Employees cover the windows of a gift shop with wood to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Norma, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. Fernando Llano / AP
The hurricane’s slow pace increased the possibility of severe flooding. Norma was expected to drop 15 to 30 centimeters of rain, with a maximum of 45 centimeters in some places in southern Baja California and much of Sinaloa state.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency, around 1,500 people were staying in emergency shelters in Baja California as of Saturday morning.
The Los Cabos Civil Defense Department urged residents to stay indoors throughout the day as wind and rain increased. Rescue workers rushed through the city, evacuating people from low-lying areas and taking them to emergency shelters.
Police in San Jose del Cabo rescued two people from their truck early Saturday when it was swept away by a rushing creek.
The hotels in Los Cabos, which are mostly visited by foreign tourists, remain about three-quarters full and there is no major exodus of visitors, said the tourism minister of the state of Baja California Sur, Maribel Collins.
Since rain was already falling in Los Cabos, some return flights were canceled on Friday, there was no way out anyway. According to the local civil protection office, the airports were closed on Saturday.
A tourist walks along shops and restaurants that were closed due to the arrival of Hurricane Norma on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Fernando Llano / AP
The local hotel association estimated that about 40,000 tourists were still in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo on Friday.
A couple from San Diego walked the largely deserted streets of Cabo San Lucas on Friday. With their sport fishing tournament postponed until next week, they had little choice but to stay. The local port was closed to shipping as a precaution.
In the marina of Cabo San Lucas, José Ceseña pulled the boat out of the water that he usually uses to take tourists on tours. With the port closed and a hurricane approaching, he said it wasn’t worth risking his ship.
Homero Blanco, the state commander of the National Guard, said resort beaches had been closed and Guard troops had been dispatched to clear people from the shore.
The federal government deployed 500 Marines to the resort to help with storm preparations, and community officials said up to 39 emergency shelters could be opened if needed.
A fisherman takes water from his fishing boat to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Norma, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Friday, October 20, 2023. Fernando Llano / AP
A hurricane warning has been issued for the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, and the forecast track would take a weakened Norma as a tropical storm toward the mainland of Mexico’s western Pacific coast.
Norma was expected to weaken slightly as it approached land, but not as much as originally forecast.
In the Atlantic, Hurricane Tammy reported winds of 85 miles per hour (140 km/h) and hurricane warnings were issued for the islands of Guadeloupe, Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis. Tammy was moving northwest at a speed of 8 miles per hour (13 km/h).
In the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Tammy was located about 55 miles (85 kilometers) east of Martinique and 135 miles (220 kilometers) southeast of the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and was moving west-northwest at a speed of 9 miles per hour (15 km/h).
Tammy was expected to maintain hurricane strength and even strengthen slightly as it moved toward the Lesser Antilles through Saturday, passing Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda. Both Martinique and Guadeloupe are French overseas departments.
A black flag flies in the wind, signaling a closed beach ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Norma in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. Fernando Llano / AP
The hurricane center said in a report that “heavy rainfall and flooding were likely over much of the Lesser Antilles.”
Two weeks after Tropical Storm Phillippe slammed into Antigua and Barbuda, dumping 6 to 8 inches of rain and plunging both islands into darkness, islanders were preparing for Tammy’s arrival. The slow-moving system was forecast to bring up to 12 inches across a twin island nation where the devastation from Hurricane Irma in 2017 and recent wind damage and flooding from Philippe are still fresh in memory.
“So that means the earth is still somewhat saturated and with additional rainfall the risk of flooding increases,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said in a national broadcast on Friday afternoon. He urged residents to take all necessary measures to protect lives and property.
Government offices, banks and most non-retail businesses closed early Friday to allow employees to prepare. Residents’ rush to stock up on essentials led to gridlock throughout St. John’s and near popular malls and supermarkets.
Local disaster management officials announced plans to open an estimated 40 emergency shelters in communities across the country.
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