Weaker hurricane Jimena slaps western Mexico

LOS CABOS, Mexico Wed Sep 2, 2009 9:23pm IST

Palm trees are blown by strong winds in front of a hotel in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico's state of Baja California, as Hurricane Jimena approaches, September 1, 2009. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Palm trees are blown by strong winds in front of a hotel in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico's state of Baja California, as Hurricane Jimena approaches, September 1, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Henry Romero

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LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane Jimena made landfall halfway up Mexico's Baja California peninsula on Wednesday, slapping desert towns with howling winds and rain after drenching the Los Cabos resort area overnight.

Jimena, a Category 2 storm, pummeled the peninsula's west coast with 100 mph (160 kph) winds and driving rain but had dropped considerably in force since the weekend when it blew into a highly dangerous Category 4 hurricane.

A hurricane warning remained in effect for the north of the peninsula but civil protection officials said there were no reports of casualties or major damage to property in Los Cabos after Jimena brushed past there on Tuesday.

"It wasn't that bad, you just had to sit in your house for a day," said Bill Gardner, 67, an accountant from Utah.

People swept up debris, beachfront restaurants emptied out storm sandbags and hotels began removing boards from their windows as the weather calmed down. But many tourists had already cut their vacations early and flown home.

"This leaves us with a very bad week," Gonzalo Fanyutti, head of the Los Cabos hotels association told local radio.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Jimena was now about 30 miles (45 km) north-northeast of Cabo San Lazaro and moving north-northwest at around 13 mph (20 kph).

BENT PALM TREES

After buffeting the tip of the peninsula, home to world-class golf courses, yachting marinas and five-star hotels, and flooding streets in nearby slums, the storm touched land in a much more sparsely populated area.

TV images showed palm trees bent double in the town of Ciudad Constitucion, a quarter of the way up the peninsula.

Category 2 storms on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale tend to damage roofs and windows, snap branches, tear power lines and turn loose outdoor items into projectiles.

Much of Baja California is mountainous desert, dotted with small towns, and the wild terrain is popular with nature lovers, surfers, sport fishermen, artists and retirees.

Los Cabos, normally bathed in brilliant sun from dawn to dusk, attracts planeloads of tourists all year round.

"We did a last-minute booking and ended up getting a hurricane," said tourist Cathy Hallock, 60, from California.

On Wednesday several thousand people who had spent the night in storm shelters around Los Cabos returned home. Some even headed for the beach and paddled in the sea.

Mexico has no oil installations or significant coffee or mining interests in the area. Cabo San Lucas port was closed.

An Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development meeting of officials from dozens of countries to discuss tax havens had to be moved from Los Cabos to Mexico City.

Jimena was the second hurricane of the 2009 eastern Pacific season to pound Mexico. Hurricane Andres swept a fisherman to his death in Acapulco in June.

(Additional reporting by Susy Buchanan in Los Cabost)

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