La Paz BCS 20:00 - Hurricane Jimena has undergone an impressive burst of intensification over the last 24 hours and is now essentially a Cat 5 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph. It is tracking toward the southern tip of the Baja peninsula and could make landfall as early as tomorrow evening. Short of Category 5 status — the top danger rating for a hurricane — it could rake the harsh desert region fringed with picturesque beaches and fishing villages as a major storm by Tuesday evening, forecasters said. Heavy bands of intermittent rain moved across the resort town of Los Cabos on Monday evening. At least 10,000 families were ordered to evacuate their homes in low-lying areas and shantytowns, said Apolinar Ledezma, the municipal public safety director. The government said it would send out 200 military personnel and dozens of police in trucks to help people reach dozens of shelters. Authorities warned that those who refuse to evacuate would be forced to do so.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert Monday afternoon. "U.S. citizens located in areas likely to be impacted by Hurricane Jimena and who do not have access to adequate and safe shelter should consider departing while commercial flights are still available," said the State Department. Seats could be limited on commercial flights out of southern Baja California and airports could close, said the State Department, adding that Hermosillo and resort towns on Mexico's west coast as far south as Mazatlan could expect to receive heavy rain and winds and a strong storm surge from the hurricane. U.S. airlines are allowing travelers to delay flights to Los Cabos without the usual financial penalties for flight changes over the new few days, and cruise ships have canceled port calls. Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Continental Airlines are among those offering travelers a waiver that allows them to rebook flights to Los Cabos for another time.
Travelers should check with their airlines for specific dates; most post details on their Web sites. Cruise lines have changed itineraries to avoid the hurricane. Carnival Cruise Lines has diverted two ships away from Los Cabos on cruises from Southern California, and Royal Caribbean also altered itineraries.
Published on: Aug 31, 2009 @ 18:49
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