At least 10,000 Mexicans will be evacuated from their homes, officials said Thursday, as Category 3 Hurricane John headed for the resort beaches of the Baja California peninsula.
Jose Gajon, head of civil protection for the state of Baja California Sur, said locals living in low-lying areas around the Los Cabos beach resort will be taken to shelters, by force if necessary, before the storm pummels the region on Friday.
"Those who do not want to leave will be taken away by the army," Gajon said.
The dangerous Category 3 hurricane, packing sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph) and stronger gusts, headed for the Baja California resort of Los Cabos, famed for its beaches, golf courses, yachting and deep sea fishing.
Residents in the busy port of Manzanillo -- a favorite spot for U.S. and Canadian fishermen -- boarded up doors and windows as John churned along the Pacific Coast, and some tourists cut short their vacations to get out
The hurricane doused Manzanillo and other resorts with torrential rain, but it was just far enough out in the ocean to spare them its full fury.
"Thank God. We're happy the hurricane didn't hit us," said Guadalupe Marin, 29, on her way to work at a downtown eatery.
In October, Hurricane Wilma smashed up Cancun and other beach resorts on Mexico's Caribbean coast. It caused massive damage, sucking away large stretches of beach and stranding tens of thousands of tourists in makeshift shelters for days.
At 8 a.m. ET on Thursday the center of Hurricane John swirled northwestward and parallel to the Mexican coast about 95 miles (150 km) west of Manzanillo.
John was expected to remain just off the mainland but the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said it was barreling straight at the Los Cabos resort on the tip of Baja and would make landfall on Friday.
It is then expected to spin back out into the Pacific, posing no threat to the United States.
John's lashing winds and rain are strong enough to cause life-threatening flooding, severe damage to property and mud slides in mountainous areas.
Rainfall of 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm), with isolated deluges of 18 inches (45 cm), were possible along the coast, forecasters said.
Manzanillo hotels said some tourists left town early and others had canceled bookings.
The U.S. hurricane center downgraded John one mark to a Category 3 storm late Wednesday but all the way up the coast emergency workers remained on alert.
The busy tourist resort of Acapulco had sea surges of up to 10 feet (3.5 meters) on Wednesday. Seafront roads were ankle-deep in water and people struggled to stay on their feet in winds that knocked down trees.
Meanwhile, the fifth tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, Ernesto, gained momentum as it churned toward the Carolinas after limping weakly up through Florida around the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that devastated the jazz city of New Orleans.
By 8 a.m., Ernesto's winds had increased to 55 mph (90 kph) and it was around 95 miles (155 km) east of Jacksonville, in Florida, but it was not expected to regain hurricane strength. (Full story)
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