CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico » Hurricane Newton slammed into the twin resorts of Los Cabos on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula Tuesday morning, knocking out power in some places as stranded tourists huddled in their hotels.
Newton made landfall as a Category 1 storm with winds of 90 mph, pelting the area near Cabo San Lucas with heavy rain and blowing down at least half a dozen palm trees along the coastal boulevard. Some windows were also shattered, but there was calm in the city as firefighters cleaned the streets of refuse.
Roberto Dominguez, a customer relations worker at the Fairfield Marriot in Cabo San Lucas said guests hunkered down in their rooms overnight. He said the hotel’s windows and balconies had been sufficiently protected from the storm and tourists were fine in the morning, although without cellphone or internet service.
Los Cabos suffered heavy damage to homes, shops and hotels two years ago when it was hammered by Hurricane Odile, which hit land as a Category 3 storm.
After making landfall Newton moved inland and its center was located about 50 miles west of La Paz, the capital of Baja California state. It was moving northeast at around 17 mph. Maximum sustained winds had decreased to 80 mph.
Mexico extended hurricane warnings for the peninsula and also a stretch of the mainland coast across the Gulf of California, also called the Sea of Cortez. The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted Newton could cross the peninsula as a hurricane and re-enter the gulf.
Newton was forecast to dump 8 to 12 inches of rain on Baja California Sur state with isolated maximums up to 18 inches, and heavy rains were also expected for five other states. Newton could even reach the U.S. border at Arizona as a tropical storm, according to the latest forecasts.
About 14,000 tourists had remained in Los Cabos as of Monday night as airlines cancelled flights out as the storm approached, said Genaro Ruiz, the state tourism secretary. Ruiz said tourists had been advised to remain in their hotels.
“The most important thing is to stay at home,” said Carlos Godinez, a civil defense official for Baja California Sur. “If there is nothing that requires you to be outside, take shelter with your family.”
Officials evacuated low-lying areas and opened 18 shelters at schools in the two resorts and 38 more in other parts of the state, while warning people against panic buying.
“There is no need for mass buying,” Los Cabos Mayor Arturo de la Rosa Escalante said. “There is enough food and fuel for the next 20 days.”
Los Cabos police were stationed at shopping malls to guard against the kind of looting that occurred after Hurricane Odile.
On Monday, torrential rains from then-Tropical Storm Newton prompted some 100 people to evacuate their homes and damaged residences in Uruapan in the Pacific coast state of Michoacan, the city government reported.
Some roads were blocked by flooding and mudslides in the neighboring state of Guerrero, where some people were evacuated by helicopter. No deaths were reported in either state.
Newton was expected to move up the peninsula and enter the Gulf of California by Tuesday night.
The hurricane center said the storm could dump 1 to 3 inches of rain over parts of Arizona and New Mexico through Thursday, threatening flash floods and landslides.