NEWS

Hurricane Norma Churns Toward Baja California Peninsula

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Hurricane Norma churned closer toward Baja California Sur in Mexico early on Friday, where forecasters said it would unleash torrential rain and flooding in the southern portions of the state this weekend.

The Category 3 hurricane’s winds had reached 115 miles per hour as it moved north at 7 m.p.h. at midnight on Friday, about 335 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, a city that is home to tourist resorts. Norma was expected approach the Baja California peninsula on Friday night and Saturday but weaken in the coming days, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Still, mudslides, powerful winds, heavy rain and flooding were in store for the southern part of Baja California Sur, which will experience the worst effects of the storm through the weekend, the hurricane center said.

Preparations for potentially dangerous effects from the storm were underway on Friday. Officials suspended school in the municipality of Los Cabos in Baja California Sur. And the state government shared a list on Facebook of more than 40 temporary shelters that residents could travel to ahead of threatening conditions.

Officials also closed the ports of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, though airports were still operating normally. Hotel workers were also making plans to “protect the safety” of the roughly 40,000 tourists in the area, according to the governor’s office.

A hurricane warning, which is typically issued 36 hours before the onslaught of tropical-storm-force winds, was in effect for the peninsula from Todos Santos, a town on the Pacific Coast, across the southern portion of the peninsula to Los Barriles, a town on the Gulf of California.

Wind speeds of 130 miles per hour had pushed Norma into a Category 4 hurricane on Thursday. Forecasters have downgraded it to a Category 3, but Norma is still expected to arrive on the peninsula as a hurricane on Friday night.

Five to 10 inches of rain, with some areas possibly receiving up to 15 inches through Sunday, could generate flooding, including in urban areas, and mudslides at higher elevations. Swells spreading northward along the coasts of Baja California Sur coast and southwestern Mexico could also cause dangerous surfing conditions.

The Mexican government has also issued tropical storm warnings for several areas: from north Los Barriles to La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, and from north of Todos Santos to the Santa Fe neighborhood. Tropical storm conditions are forecast to hit those areas in 36 hours, the hurricane center warned in an advisory early Friday.

A storm watch was also in place for Las Islas Marías, an archipelago off the western coast of Mexico. Forecasters warned that towns elsewhere in Baja California Sur and along the west coast of mainland Mexico should monitor the progress of the storm.

Skies were already cloudy and the wind had picked up slightly in Cabo San Lucas on Thursday, said Edwin Rodriguez, who works at the front desk at the Cabo Inn Hotel, where guests are typically housed on the second floor when storms bring heavy rain.

He said that the government had advised that it was prepared in advance of the storm, lining up shelters, food and supplies if needed, especially for people in low-lying coastal areas.

“They have places where people can sleep safely, for those areas that are on the sand, in dangerous zones on rainy days,” he said. “Even if they don’t need it. They say it is going to be Category 1, but you never know.”

Norma is the 14th named storm to form in the eastern Pacific so far in 2023, compared with 19 named storms in 2022.

Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.

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