CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico >> A weakening Tropical Storm Odile pushed up Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula early Tuesday, dumping heavy rains that could bring dangerous flash floods and mudslides but also a potential boon to the drought-stricken region.
Mexico’s government said late Monday night that army and commercial planes would be sent to La Paz and Los Cabos airports to ferry out some of the tens of thousands of tourists stranded in temporary shelters in hotels. Los Cabos international airport was damaged by the storm.
Charly Park, 52, flew in from Los Angeles on Sunday but instead of checking into his hotel room, he and his wife spent the night at a cramped, hot shelter.
"It’s a horrible experience, no air conditioning, no fans … the power lines all fell down," Park said.
Emergency officials in Baja California reported that 135 people have been treated for minor injuries from flying glass or falling objects, but there were no serious injuries or deaths so far. About 30,000 tourists were in temporary shelters.
Before moving north late Monday, Odile made landfall near Cabo San Lucas as a powerful Category 3 hurricane before rapidly weakening. It toppled trees and road signs along the main highway, which at one point was flooded by rushing waters. Windows were blown out of high-end hotel rooms and resort facades crumbled to the ground.
Most of the area’s power poles were blown over, leaving 239,000 people in the state of Baja California Sur without electricity, said Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator for Civil Protection.
"In the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen anything hit like this," said Alejandro Tealdi, a 32-year-old resident of Cabo San Lucas whose home was damaged.
Many homes and businesses were reduced to shells with only the core structure intact. The walls of an OfficeMax collapsed into the parking lot. A convenience store was torn apart with the contents of its shelves dumped to the ground, and some locals helped themselves to food, water and other goods.
In Colonia Unidad Real, a neighborhood that sprang up years ago in a former creek bed, hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed with debris scattered everywhere.
After spending a harrowing night with her in-laws, Graciela Castillo Monroy, 44, and her family returned to find the roof of their home gone and all but two of its cinderblock walls collapsed. They piled what belongings could be salvaged atop a soggy mattress and began picking up the pieces.
"Well, time to start over again," Monroy said.
Odile continued to lash the state of Baja California Sur with strong winds and heavy rains as it marched northward, but it weakened to a tropical storm late Monday night.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm had maximum sustained winds near 60 mph Tuesday morning. It was centered about 70 miles northwest of Rosalia, Mexico and was moving to the north-northwest near 10 mph.
Odile was expected to drop 6 to 12 inches of rain with isolated accumulations of 18 inches, threatening to unleash dangerous flash floods and landslides.
Farther south in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Polo formed off southern Mexico early Tuesday. It was located about 360 miles south-southeast of Acapulco, and had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. Polo was moving west-northwest at 9 mph.