CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Norma made landfall near the resorts of Los Cabos at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula on Saturday afternoon.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Norma, once a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 80 mph (130 kph) near el Pozo de Cota, west-northwest of Cabo San Lucas. Norma is expected to continue weakening over the weekend as it crosses into the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California.
While in the Atlantic, Hurricane Tammy was very near Antigua and threatened to batter the islands of the Lesser Antilles.
Earlier on Saturday, businesses in Cabo San Lucas nailed up sheets of plywood over their windows, and government personnel hung up banners warning people not to try to cross gullies and stream beds after Norma regained strength and once again became a major storm Friday.
Norma had weakened early Saturday and was downgraded to Category 1 on the hurricane wind scale. By early afternoon Norma was located 15 miles west-northwest of Cabo San Lucas, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving north-northeast at 7 mph (11 kmh).
The hurricane was expected to continue on that path through the evening before turning to the northeast and slowing down through Monday. The forecast track would take a weakened Norma toward the mainland of Mexico’s western Pacific coast as a tropical storm.
Its languid pace raised the possibility of severe flooding. Norma was expected to dump six to 12 inches of rain with a maximum of 18 inches in places across southern Baja California and much of Sinaloa state.
John Cangialosi, a senior specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said the area is vulnerable to rain because it’s a dry region generally.
“Six to 12 inches of rain is what is generally forecast, but there could be pockets of up to 18 inches of rain and we do think that will be the most significant impact that could result in flash and urban flooding and mudslides,” he said.
Authorities in San Jose del Cabo helped two families of tourist – one Mexico and one from the United States – who had been stranded at the closed airport. Authorities took them to one of the 24 open shelters that by the afternoon held about 1,700 people.
There were early reports of downed trees and power poles, but no reported injuries or deaths.
The Los Cabos Civil Defense agency urged residents to stay indoors all day as winds and rain increased. Emergency workers rushed around the area evacuating people from low-lying areas and moving them to shelters.
Police in San Jose del Cabo rescued two people from their truck when a surging stream swept it away early Saturday. Some informal settlements, away from the hotels that serve tourists, were already isolated by rising water. Some neighborhoods lost electricity and internet service.
By late morning, the area’s streets were littered with palm fronds and other debris, and essentially deserted except for occasional military patrols. Strong winds whipped traffic signs, trees and power lines.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said hurricane conditions were already occurring over southern parts of the peninsula.
Hotels in Los Cabos, which are largely frequented by foreign tourists, remained about three-quarters full and visitors made no major moves to leave en masse, Baja California Sur state tourism secretary Maribel Collins said.
There was no way out anyway: Airports were closed Saturday, according to the local civil defense office.
The local hotel association estimated there were about 40,000 tourists still in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo on Friday.
At the marina in Cabo San Lucas, José Ceseña was hauling out of the water the boat he usually uses to ferry tourists around on tours. With the port closed to navigation and a hurricane coming, he said it wasn’t worth risking his craft.
Homero Blanco, the state commander of the National Guard, said beaches at the resort had been ordered closed and Guard troops were sent to clear people from the seashore.
The federal government posted 500 marines to the resort to help with storm preparations, and municipal officials said as many as 39 emergency shelters could be opened, if needed.
In the Atlantic, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Tammy had winds of 85 mph (140 kph), and hurricane warnings were issued for the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, and St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, St. Martin and St. Barthelmy. Tammy was moving north-northwest at 10 mph (17 kmh).
In the Atlantic, Hurricane Tammy was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Guadeloupe and 35 miles (55 kilometers) east-southeast of the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Tammy was expected to remain at hurricane strength and even strengthen slightly as it moved toward the Lesser Antilles through Saturday passing by Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda. Both Martinique and Guadeloupe are French overseas departments.
The hurricane center said in a report that “heavy rainfall and flooding (are) likely over much of the Lesser Antilles.”
Two weeks after Tropical Storm Phillippe rolled through Antigua and Barbuda dumping six to eight inches of rain and plunging both islands into darkness, residents of the islands braced for Tammy’s arrival. The slow-moving system was forecast to bring up to 12 inches over a twin island nation where the devastation of Hurricane Irma in 2017 and recent wind damage and flooding from Philippe are still fresh memories.
“This means therefore, that the earth is still somewhat saturated and with additional rainfall, the potential for flooding is elevated,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said in a nationwide broadcast on Friday afternoon. He urged residents to take all necessary steps to secure life and property.
Government offices, banks, and most non-retail businesses closed early on Friday to allow staff to prepare. Residents’ rush to stock up on necessities caused gridlock throughout St John’s and near popular shopping centers and supermarkets.
Local disaster management officials announced plans to open an estimated 40 shelters in communities throughout the country.
Associated Press writer Anika Kentish in St. John’s, Antigua, contributed to this report.