Troy - Press Archive - Plodding hurricane tests tourists, evacuees in Baja California


Source: Sun-Sentinel
26 August 2003
 
Plodding hurricane tests tourists, evacuees in Baja California
By MARK STEVENSON
Associated Press
Posted August 26 2003, 11:10 AM EDT
 
LA PAZ, Mexico -- Fear turned to frustration as Hurricane Ignacio stalled off
the southern Baja California Peninsula and residents confronted the prospect
of spending another night in shelters.
 
The hurricane left hundreds of tourists stranded by canceled flights Monday
night and forced the evacuation of nearly 3,000 people as it roared along the
coast.

Mudslides cut one highway, and the hurricane's winds - which topped 90 mph -
blew down trees, signposts and power cables.
 
There were no reports of any deaths or injuries, and the fear that marked the
howling winds near dawn gave way to weariness later.
 
"Some people come in and say, 'Look, I just have to get back to my job, or
my family,'" said airline ticket counter attendant Mauricio Bautista. "But most
people are calm.''
 
Most airline seats were booked solid through the end of the week with
tourists seeking to get out even before Ignacio struck, and with the La Paz
airport shut down by the storm Monday.
 
"We're really stuck,'' said Luciano Rea, 30, of Naples, Italy, as he stood on
the rain-drenched sidewalk outside an airline ticket office.
 
Rea has been trying to get a flight to the United States for three days,
without luck. But a bright spot opened for other travelers when the airport
opened again at San Jose del Cabo, about 50 miles south of La Paz, at
the peninsula's tip.
 
Meanwhile, La Paz residents evacuated from their homes late Sunday
already wanted to leave shelters and go home Monday, after spending
the night on classroom floors at schools.
 
But the state government warned of the continued threat of high winds
and heavy rains.
 
The hurricane drifted northwest at 3 mph Monday night and was expected to
move inland overnight, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
 
Sustained winds were still estimated at 75 mph. But Ignacio was expected to
weaken and turn into a tropical storm overnight. At 11 p.m. EDT, the center of
Hurricane Ignacio was located near latitude 24.5 north, longitude 110.6 west.
 
State officials acknowledged some were already leaving shelters to check on
the their meager possessions in La Paz's shanty towns.
 
"The hard part about last night was how hard the floor was,'' said Paloma
Garcia, who, along with her sons Angel and Christian, left their home in the
Calandria neighborhood to take refuge in a classroom at a university. "Now
I just want to go home and see how my house is.''
 
Through much of the day, Mexican sailors using motorboats struggled
against strong winds to pull sailboats off the rocks in the harbor of La Paz,
the state capital and a center for fishermen and tourists.
 
Forecasters said the storm was likely to crawl slowly up the southern Gulf
of California toward Loreto, while gradually edging over the peninsula itself.
 
It was unclear if the storm would eventually move far enough north to bring
rain to the southwestern United States.
 
Hotels in Loreto and La Paz each receive about 40,000 foreign tourists,
mostly U.S. citizens, a year, according to Mexico's tourism department.
 

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