Storm targets Baja resort

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico — CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- Hurricane John ambled north toward the beaches of this resort city on the tip of Baja California today as local authorities moved to evacuate thousands of residents.

John, downgraded to a Category 2 storm by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, carried winds reaching 110 mph and was expected to reach land "near or over Baja California" late today. The hurricane's center was moving southeast of the Baja coastline yesterday.


Authorities declared a "red alert," ordering the port and airport closed. Mexican army troops were preparing to evacuate 12,000 residents who live in neighborhoods vulnerable to high winds.

The weather was overcast and about 78 degrees at midday with a light breeze. Most tourists left Thursday, but a few who remained walked along the mostly deserted central business district, sipping beers. Nearly all the stores were closed and about half had boards covering the windows.


"Right now, everything's pretty quiet," said Jose Gajon de la Toba, director of civil protection for Baja California. "We're expecting harsher conditions about 10 p.m. tonight. People in high-risk areas have been moved to shelters."

A half-dozen tourists and two residents found their shelter during the afternoon at the Giggling Marlin, one of the few establishments still open. They were prohibited from being served alcohol by government decree, but food was plentiful.

"We haven't closed in 22 years," said the bar manager. "We liked to ride them out before, but this time we may have to close."

John is not expected to have a significant impact in the United States. Storms moving up the West Coast generally lose power as they pass over cooler Pacific waters.

Heavy rains from the hurricane's outer belts caused flooding in Acapulco, south of Manzanillo, and made roads impassable to towns in the mountainous interior.

Farther out in the Pacific, Hurricane Kristy formed with minimum sustained winds of about 75 mph. It was forecast to move slowly westward.

On the Baja Peninsula, many people were expecting a direct hit from John.

The last big hurricane to sweep across the area was Marty in September 2003. It caused at least three deaths in Cabo San Lucas before advancing north along the east coast of the peninsula toward La Paz, where it left seven people dead.


Two years before, Hurricane Juliette damaged or destroyed 1,800 homes and displaced 4,000 residents in Cabo San Lucas.

North of Cabo San Lucas, in the East Cape region on the Gulf of California, an area popular with American anglers and other tourists, many businesses were beginning to shut down by Thursday morning.

"I guess everybody is gun-shy from Katrina," said Mark Rayor, owner of the East Cape dive company Vista Sea Sport. "Everybody pulled their boats, and we're ahead of the normal panic at the last minute."

Brian VanderBrug and Roldan Gomez write for the Los Angeles Times. The Times' Carlos Martmnez in Manzanillo, Pete Thomas in Los Angeles, and Hictor Tobar and Cecilia Sanchez in Mexico City contributed to this article.