UPDATE: 9/3/09, 9:18 AM EST
LOS CABOS, Mexico (AP) - Hurricane Jimena pounded the middle of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula on Wednesday after lashing the Los Cabos resort region with driving rains and thundering surf.
Winds from the once-mighty storm had weakened to near 105 mph (165 kph) by early Wednesday and the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said it was expected to weaken further as it runs up the peninsula. Hurricane-force winds were already hitting land.
Despite a pummeling by the fringes of the then-Category 3 hurricane, the Mexican peninsula's biggest resort, Los Cabos, appeared escape major damage beyond power outages, mud-choked roads and downed signs.
Dozens of people evacuated from the Los Cangrejos shantytown huddled in a darkened school after electricity failed during the storm. Trying to calm squalling babies and ignore hunger from food shortages, the evacuees waited for dawn, and a chance to look at what the hurricane did to their homes of plastic sheeting, wood and tar paper.
"Instead of giving out a few sheets of roofing every year, they should give us materials to build real houses -- wood, or even bricks," said Paulino Hernandez, an out-of-work mason who sought haven at the school. "Every year it's the same thing: They (officials) give out a few sheets of roofing, and the next year it has to be replaced" when a hurricane comes.
Authorities reported no injuries in Los Cabos, but expressed concern about what might happen when the hurricane hits land farther up the coast.
"It could be ugly at Bahia Magdalena," state Interior Secretary Luis Armanado Diaz said, referring to a sparsely populated bay with a smattering of fishing villages to the north.
But Diaz said Jimena could alleviate the state's drought. "If it continues like this, and there is not a major impact, it will help more than it will hurt," he said.
Officials in Baja California Sur state prepared shelters to hold up to 29,000 people as Jimena churned northward.
The federal government declared a state of emergency for Los Cabos and the state capital of La Paz as the storm approached. Schools, many ports and most businesses closed. Rescue workers from the Red Cross and the Mexican military prepared for post-hurricane disaster relief, and two Mexican army Hercules cargo planes flew in medical supplies.
While its center missed the peninsula's resort-studded southern tip, its outer fringes kicked up huge waves and flooded streets.
Los Cabos resident Eduardo Meraz, 25, went swimming in the pounding surf at the height of the storm Tuesday.
"I'm not afraid. I respect the sea," said Meraz, still dripping from his dip. "The water is nice, but the waves really toss you around."
Not everyone enjoyed Jimena's raging show.
Martin Melchior, a 25-year-old construction worker, stood outside his plywood, tin-roofed shack in the Cactus shantytown and nervously watched the storm. Thin, tattered power cables snaked over the sodden ground to the hundreds of unregistered hookups to the city's power system.
Police trucks moved through the muddy streets, urging people to join an estimated 2,000 residents already in shelters, but Melchior said he wouldn't go.
"There are too many people in the shelters, and you can't get any peace. Someone tells you: 'This is my space,'" he said.
Forecasters predicted the hurricane would drop 5 to 10 inches (12 to 25 centimeters) of rain in Baja, and dry stream beds already were gushing torrents.
Most tourists had left by Tuesday, leaving 75 percent of hotel rooms vacant. Some of those who stayed came out to marvel at the storm, fighting the winds and rain at the shore.
Others wandered deserted streets, some ankle-deep in water.
"We're going to go get some more liquor and go back to the room and just watch it," Mark Lopez, 29, a truck dispatcher from San Jose, California, said while walking near a marina with a half-dozen friends. "We're making the most of it."
Early Wednesday, Jimena was located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Cabo San Lazaro.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Erika was moving across the Atlantic, about 160 miles (255 kilometers) east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands. The storm had top winds around 45 mph (75 kph), but tropical-storm force winds extended as far 120 miles (195 kilometers) from the center.
It was moving westward at about 7 mph (11 kph) and could hit the Leeward Islands in a day or so.
From the AP:
CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- Emergency workers built shelters for thousands of endangered families as a strengthening Hurricane Jimena roared toward Mexico's resort-studded Baja California peninsula Monday.
Jimena, a dangerous Category 4 storm, could rake southern Baja California by Tuesday evening, forecasters said.
At least 10,000 families will be evacuated from potential flood zones, said Francisco Cota, the local director of Civil Protection. He said 60 shelters would be set up.
"I think it's going to be a substantial hurricane by the time it approaches," said Richard Pasch of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Delegates from around the world had already begun to arrive for a conference sponsored by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development on Tuesday and Wednesday at Cabo Los Cabos at the southern tip of the peninsula.
Nicholas Bray, the head of media for the Paris-based organization, said Monday there are no plans to postpone or cancel the meeting due to the hurricane.
Brenda Munoz, who lost her home to a 2001 hurricane, was taking no chances and stocking up on food this time.
"I remember when Hurricane Juliette hit with a lot of intensity. It flattened our home, lots of flooding, lots of disaster," Munoz said in Cabo San Lucas. "We're already prepared with food and everything so it won't catch us off guard."
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But with the weather still mild on Sunday, Jim Patterson, a tourist from Big Bear Lake, California, could not muster much concern.
"Are you saying it would be a good idea to stock up on tequila?" he joked at a seaside restaurant. "No fear. I've been through tornados and earthquakes and everything else, but never a hurricane."
Farther south, Jimena kicked up surf along Mexico's mainland western coast and generated strong winds that bent and uprooted trees in the resort town of Zihuatanejo.
Early Monday, Jimena had maximum sustained winds near 145 mph (230 kph) and was moving northwest near 8 mph (13 kph).
It was centered about 370 miles (595 kilometers) south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas.
Authorities in Cabo Corrientes were setting up shelters in case of heavier winds and rain, said Arturo Garcia, an official with Jalisco's Civil Protection agency.
The U.S. hurricane center issued a public advisory for residents in western Mexico and the southern part of the Baja peninsula to keep tabs on Jimena.
Farther out in the Pacific, a weakening Tropical Storm Kevin had top winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and was centered 895 miles (1,435 kilometers) west-southwest of the Baja peninsula's southern tip.