Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hurricane Norbert hits Mexico's Baja peninsula

Evacuations as storm makes landfall with torrential rains, howling winds

LA PAZ, Mexico - Hurricane Norbert roared into Mexico's southern Baja California peninsula with torrential rains and screaming winds Saturday.

Norbert, with wind speeds of 105-mph, made landfall near Puerto Charley on the southwest coast of Baja California, according to officials from the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

"It's blowing down roofs and destroying things in its path," Jose Gajon, head of civil protection in Baja California, told Reuters.

It was expected to sweep across a sparsely populated stretch of the peninsula, and then make a second landfall Saturday night in northwestern Mexico's mainland — possibly as a hurricane.

Residents fled to shelters as floodwaters rose in their homes. Winds bent palm trees and some streets were knee-deep in water in the town of Puerto San Carlos.

Rescue authorities evacuated Mexicans from houses made of wooden boards and sheet metal in low-lying areas in danger of flooding on the western side of the peninsula.

California resident Louis Sebulsky, in La Paz to help build a golf course, moved from his trailer to a hotel as Norbert approached.

"We are going to sit right here in the lobby and wait this one out," he said. "We've got plenty of food and all we can do is hope for the best."

After crossing the peninsula, Norbert could pummel the agricultural states of Sonora and Sinaloa with heavy rains, but it was not expected to cause any damage to mining interests in northern Mexico.

'Very worried'
Before Norbert's landfall, the Governor of Baja California Sur state, Narciso Agundez, said officials here are "very worried."

Under overcast skies in Baja California on Friday, fishermen hauled their boats onto beaches in La Paz, a port town on the peninsula's eastern coast. Yellow flags on beaches warned people to stay out of the water.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Odile, south of Norbert in the Pacific, moved north along Mexico's coastline near the Ixtapa vacation town, threatening to dump rain and putting the region at risk of flash floods and mudslides.

Odile's winds reached nearly 65 mph and could become a hurricane, the center said.

Odile has already caused flooding in Acapulco and forced officials to cancel classes at local schools.

Civil defense officials in Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, urged about 10,000 people living along river banks or other dangerous areas to evacuate.

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