Archive for Monday, September 4, 2006

John may drench parts of U.S.

September 4, 2006

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— The remnants of Hurricane John made a soggy march up the Baja California peninsula Sunday, soaking fishing villages and retirement communities and threatening flooding in parts of the U.S. Southwest.

The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression late Sunday but was still dumping rain on the normally arid Baja. State officials said as much as 20 inches had fallen in isolated areas, and forecasters said John was threatening to cause deadly flash floods.

It was also expected to dump up to 3 inches of rain in desert areas from Southern California to west Texas in the next few days and could cause some flooding, said meteorologist Eric Blake of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

John was a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 mph when it hit the southern tip of the peninsula late Friday. But officials reported no deaths and little destruction, though some shantytown shacks were blown down.

President Vicente Fox visited Los Cabos on Sunday and walked through a hurricane-battered neighborhood in La Paz, a city of more than 150,000 among the hardest hit. The president viewed concrete homes whose tin roofs had been ripped off.

"Fortunately there is no human loss and the impact is relatively modest," Fox said as he pledged to help residents whose homes had been affected.

A total of 160 houses in the area lost their roofs and four houses collapsed, officials said. About 1,155 people remained in government shelters. Mexico's health secretary was sending in officials to protect the state against dengue and other water-born diseases.

Wearing a broad-rimmed straw hat, Fox walked through Vista Hermosa, a poor La Paz neighborhood clinging to the mountains overlooking the fashionable downtown of this fishing town-turned-resort.

The storm initially was forecast to slam into the resort area of Los Cabos and move westward out to sea. But Blake said a high-pressure ridge was weaker than expected and that allowed the storm to keep traveling north up the peninsula.

The storm's maximum sustained winds dropped to about 35 mph and it was about 30 miles southwest of the ancient mining town of Santa Rosalia on Sunday after slogging past Loreto, which is being developed as a resort aimed at U.S. visitors and retirees.

It was moving northwest up the spine of the narrow peninsula at 7 mph and was expected to weaken further as it remains over land most of the day. Forecasters said it was likely to move out to sea well south of the border city of Tijuana later this week.

In La Paz, the sun shone brightly Sunday afternoon as crew busily worked to restore electricity and phone service and remove fallen electric poles in city, still covered in a veil of sand and grit.

As residents dragged trees from their yards, bulldozers were brought in to clear debris from roads.

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