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Hurricane Nora lashes Baja California

Latest developments:

September 24, 1997
Web posted at: 8:04 a.m. EDT (0804 GMT)

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (CNN) -- High winds wrenched straw roofs off homes and torrential rains stranded hundreds of people on flooded highways as Hurricane Nora churned toward southern Baja California on Tuesday.

Fierce squalls from Nora blew through the rocky resort town of Cabo San Lucas, and waves up to 14 feet high kept frightened tourists huddled in their hotels on the exposed tip of the Baja peninsula.

Hurricane Nora
Time5 a.m. EDT
LocationAbout 340 miles (550 km) W-SW of Punta Eugenia, on the West coast of Baja California
Lat./Lon.22.9 N latitude, 114.7 W longitude
Windsnear 85 mph (140 kph) with higher gusts
SpeedN-NW near 13 mph (20 kph)
Current radar image                 Current satellite image

As its fallout thrashed the coastline, the hurricane itself brooded off the coast about 290 miles (465 km) west-southwest of here.

Weather officials said the storm, one of the most powerful of the hurricane season, could slam into northern Baja California as early as Wednesday.

Although the storm weakened slightly Tuesday, it was still powerful enough to batter Pacific Coast resort towns in the central and southern portions of the peninsula with heavy rain, high waves and strong winds.

No deaths were reported.

Heavy rain seen for Southwest U.S.


Hurricane-force winds extended up to 85 miles (140 km) from the storm's center. Tropical storm-force winds extended up to 200 miles (325 km).

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the lower half of the 800-mile-long (1,280 km) peninsula, and a hurricane watch was posted for the middle third of the peninsula.

Forecasters expect the eye of the storm to hit somewhere on the upper half of the peninsula. They say Nora eventually could bring heavy rainfall to the Southwest U.S., primarily east of California.

But California, too, is at risk. The state, which was threatened earlier this month by Hurricane Linda, has never been hit by a hurricane.

If Nora moves over the U.S. desert Southwest, the biggest danger from the hurricane will be the rain.

"We are concerned with the moisture associated with this hurricane, flash flooding and the problems associated with that," said Max Mayfield of the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Arizona readies for floodwaters


Southern California was concerned with moisture back in 1983, when a big chunk of the Santa Monica Pier crashed into the water. And that was no hurricane, just a hard rain on a desert terrain -- the kind of terrain that can't soak up much water.

But the water has to go somewhere. In Arizona, residents are readying for rain, shoring up drainage ditches, firing up warning systems and making sure the Red Cross is ready to roll.

While a Pacific hurricane this close to the West Coast is not the norm, it's not unheard of, either.

"Back in 1976, there was a Hurricane Kathleen that brought a lot of moisture to the Southwest," Mayfield said.

El Nino partly to blame

If Hurricane Nora does hit the western United States, some experts say El Nino could be partly to blame, because warmer waters may have allowed it to move farther north than it might have ordinarily.

The El Nino phenomenon, which has warmed waters off Peru and Ecuador and upset global weather patterns, has caused an unprecedented increase this year in the number of hurricanes and tropical storms in the Pacific.

After powering up from southern Mexico, Nora lost some of its punch Tuesday but it still packed maximum sustained winds near 90 mph (150 kph) with higher gusts, the U.S. National Weather Service said. It was moving north-northwestward at about 10 mph (18 kph).

A gradual turn to the north is expected Tuesday night.

Hundreds evacuated to shelters

According to Mexican state news agency Notimex, some 500 people from around Cabo San Lucas and La Paz in Baja California were moved to emergency shelters as a precautionary measure.

In the Sonora town of Guaymas, some 45 fishermen were evacuated from a tiny seaside camp, Notimex said.

Many residents of the southern peninsula region were left without drinking water and phone lines, and some were made homeless as the roofs of their fragile homes caved in.

"Prepare yourselves. Make sure you have drinking water and a radio or television at hand. Nora could hit land in the next 24 hours," Mexican weather forecaster Enrique Albores told residents and tourists in Baja California.

On Monday, Nora pummeled Mexico's mainland Pacific coastline to the south, destroying local businesses and coastal homes.

While there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, Televisa network said at least 40 people were rescued from the grip of crashing waves along Pacific beaches.

Correspondent Anne McDermott and Reuters contributed to this report.


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