Mexico’s Los Cabos braces for approaching Lorena, now a hurricane

Owners pulled boats from the water and hauled them away on trailers, while shopkeepers put plywood over windows and doors as Hurricane Lorena bore down on Mexico’s resort-studded Los Cabos area.

The storm was forecast to pass over or near the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula later in the day with heavy winds and soaking rains, and locals who have been through past hurricanes were taking no chances.

“If we don’t get the yacht out, the waves can damage it,” said Juan Hernandez, who rents his craft to foreign visitors. It’s “a preventative measure for when a cyclone threatens.”

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami upgraded Lorena to a Category 1 hurricane early Friday, with maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometres per hour. It was still about 160 kilometres away, but moving toward Cabo San Lucas at 15 km/h. Forecasters predicted damaging winds, flash flooding and life threatening surf along the peninsula.

With preparations going on around them Thursday, visitors strolled along Cabo San Lucas’ main drag buying souvenirs, though also keeping a wary eye on the nearing storm.

“We arrived on Monday and we hope to leave Sunday. … We hope there aren’t big problems,” said Minerva Smith, a traveller from California.

A second tropical storm, Mario, was about 590 kilometres south of the southern tip of the Baja peninsula late Thursday and had sustained winds of 100 kilometres. But it wasn’t expected to hit land.

Authorities suspended classes for Friday and prepared to use schools as shelters if necessary. The port of Cabo San Lucas was closed to navigation.

“We are taking preventive measures,” said Baja California Sur state government secretary-general Alvaro de la Pena. “Rations, gasoline, all supplies are guaranteed. There is no need for panic buying.”

A total of 177 properties were available as potential shelters in five municipalities of the state. The region was in a state of yellow alert and anticipating heavy rains.

“Lorena is going to dump a lot of water,” said Carlos Alfredo Godinez, deputy secretary for civil defence in the state.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h late Thursday and was centred about 235 kilometres east-southeast of Cabo San Lucas. It was moving to the northwest at 19 km/h.

Lorena came onshore a day earlier as a hurricane in the western Mexican state of Colima, whipping palm trees about with its strong winds and lashing the area with sheets of rain. It flooded streets, washed out roads and touched off minor slides in 10 municipalities. Dozens of trees were downed, and power was knocked out in some areas.

Forecasters say they expect the storm to pass either over or near the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula later in the day. (Jesus Lozoya/Reuters)

Colima state Gov. Jose Ignacio Peralta said nearly 20 centimetres of rain had fallen in a little under 24 hours, and more than 3,000 hectares of crops such as bananas and papayas were damaged statewide.

But there were no deaths or significant damage to infrastructure, he said.

“There are no losses of human lives to lament,” Peralta said.

Lorena’s brush with land caused it to lose strength and become a tropical storm, but it was forecast to regain its punch as it headed toward Los Cabos.