Monday, 8 March 2010

Hurricane Rick: Mexico braces for disaster as second strongest storm on record roars up Pacific coast

Residents in Cabo San Lucas were preparing for disaster today as the second strongest storm on record in the Pacific bore down on them.
Hurricane Rick went into the record books over the weekend after it roared to the top of the Saffir-Simpson scale, going from a Category One storm to a Category Five monster in an astonishing 36 hours.
The storm is roaring roaring towards the popular tourist town of Cabo San Lucas on the Baja California Peninsula today. Its howling winds have been measured at 145mph - bringing it down to a dangerous Category Four storm.
Over the weekend winds reached up to 180mph - a potentially catastrophic Category Five.
Forecasters said they expected Rick to make landfall by midweek as a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane, with winds ranging from 74 mph (120 kph) to 110 mph (177 kph).
Forecasters called on all those in Mexico's southern Baja California peninsula and along the mainland coast to closely monitor the storm, adding Rick would remain an extremely dangerous hurricane for the next day or two before losing some punch over cooler waters.
As of 11 pm EDT Sunday (4am British time this morning), the eye was centered about 410 miles (660 kilometers) south of the peninsula town of Cabo San Lucas. The storm was moving toward the northwest near 13 mph (20 kph).
Rick threatened to disrupt a major sport-fishing tournament scheduled to start Wednesday in Los Cabos, where hundreds of fishermen - mainly Americans - were gathering.

Los Cabos' civil defense director, Francisco Cota, said authorities were already weighing plans to open storm shelters and start police patrols urging residents of low-lying neighborhoods to evacuate.

The first inhabited land in Rick's path is Socorro Island, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of Cabo San Lucas, where about 103 personnel from the Mexican Navy and other government agencies are based.

The mainland base that commands the detachment said Navy personnel on the island reported some wind and rain and lowered communications antennas to prevent them from being blown away when the hurricane passes near the island Monday.

Isla Socorro is a nature reserve that hosts the Navy detachment as well as scuba-diving expeditions.
It's still far from clear where the storm will hit land, but the early forecast path would take it almost directly into Cabo San Lucas, where as many as 800 sports fishermen were expected to take part in the Bisbee's Los Cabos tournament, with about 130 boats scheduled to set off into the Pacific on Wednesday - the day Rick is projected to hit.

Teams from Russia and Japan had already shown up, and tournament organizer Clicerio Mercado said the three-day event would not be postponed, though fishing in the first two days might be canceled because of Rick, possibly leaving it as a one-day event Friday.
'In past years, we have had to cancel the first day of fishing two or three times,' Mercado said. 'But postponing it (the entire tournament) isn't a possibility.'
Mercado said that in the past, 'very big' 700 to 800 pound fish had been caught in the wake of storms because the churned-up waters draw in hungry fish.
Forecasters said Rick could carry enough force to continue past the peninsula and slam into Mexico's mainland as a hurricane somewhere near the resort city of Mazatlan on Thursday.
Rick continues to pack howling winds near 180 mph and its eye was centered about 555 miles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas as of 5am this morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Centre in Miami said.
Authorities in the resort city of Acapulco closed the port to small craft after Rick kicked up heavy waves and gusts of wind.
Acapulco's Civil Protection Department had warned that rains from the outer bands of the storm could cause landslides and flooding in the resort city, but no such effects were reported.
Rick was the second-strongest hurricane in the eastern North Pacific since 1966, when experts began keeping reliable records, said U.S. National Hurricane Center meteorologist Hugh Cobb.
The strongest was Hurricane Linda, which generated maximum winds of 185 mph in September 1997.
'Rick is probably going to go into the record books as one of the most rapidly intensifying hurricanes,' Cobb said.
The storm was generating some waves up to 50 feet high near its core, Cobb said, adding there were ship reports of 16-foot seas elsewhere off the Mexican coast.
He said the storm's danger should not be underestimated, however, as Rick will still have the potential as a Category 1 or Category 2 storm to provoke heavy rains and unleash mudslides.
Cobb said it is still uncertain whether the eye of the storm will make landfall.

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