Hurricane Norbert slams into Mexico

October 11, 2008 7:28:04 PM PDT
Hurricane Norbert slammed into Mexico's southern Baja California peninsula on Saturday with torrential rains and screaming winds, forcing scores of people to flee flooded homes. Norbert, a Category 2 storm with winds of up to 105 mph (165 kph), hit land near Puerto Charley on the southwest coast of Baja California, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

It was sweeping over a sparsely populated stretch of the peninsula, and was expected to cross the Gulf of California before making a second landfall Saturday night on northwestern Mexico's mainland -- likely as a hurricane, the center said.

Baja residents fled to shelters in school buses and army trucks as floodwaters rose in their homes. Winds uprooted palm trees and the water rose knee-high in some streets of the town of Puerto San Carlos.

"We left our house because we were scared. Our house is pretty poor and the water was already coming in," said Maria Espinosa, 54, who arrived at a high school with her daughter and two grandchildren. They joined about 60 other people sitting on foam mattresses and blankets.

Streets became rushing, knee-deep rivers in Ciudad Constitucion, a town less than 50 miles (80 kilometers) inland in the southern peninsula. Furniture, car parts and trash cans floated down the roads, which were deserted except for a few patrolling police trucks and a soaked dog wandering down an elevated sidewalk.

The storm was passing well north of the resort-dotted Los Cabos on the southern tip of the peninsula, but its course was taking it near Loreto, a small town popular with tourists on the peninsula's east coast, which was under a hurricane warrning from Loreto south to La Paz.

The government also issued hurricane warnings along the coast of the northwestern, mainland border state of Sonora.

Authorities started evacuating people from low-lying areas in Sonora and opened 60 shelters capable of housing more than 6,000 people, said Willebaldo Alatriste, the state's civil protection director.

"We're ready for the impact at any moment," Alatriste said.

As of 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), the hurricane's center was located about 55 miles (85 kilometers) southeast of Cabo San Lazaro, Mexico, and was moving northeast at 15 mph (24 kph).

The storm's remnants were expected to continue to dump rain on water-logged West Texas, where authorities prepared for more flooding.

State and local officials plan to activate an emergency operations center Monday in Presidio, where an earthen levee is struggling to hold back the swollen Rio Grande.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Odile hugged the southwest coast of Mexico.

Civil Protection officials in Guerrero state urged about 10,000 people living along river banks or other dangerous areas to evacuate.

Mudslides and fallen trees blocked roads, and 150 homes were under 13 feet (4 meters) of water in El Paraiso, a small town north of Acapulco, officials said.

Odile was located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Zihuatenejo, a resort town north of Acapulco and was moving northwest at about 13 mph (20 kph). Odile could become a hurricane, and a small deviation in its path could bring the storm inland, the hurricane center said.

A hurricane watch was in effect from Manzanillo to Zihuatanejo, a resort town north of Acapulco. A tropical storm warning was in effect from Tecpan de Galeana to Manzanillo, as Odile moved parallel to the Pacific coast with winds of about 65 mph (100 kph).

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