UPDATE 1: Hurricane John Strengthens; Baja California Threatened

September 1, 2006

After losing some strength along the West Coast of Mexico, Hurricane John has again become a “dangerous category three hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale,” according to the latest bulletin (8:00 a.m. PDT) from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “Maximum sustained winds are near 115 mph/185 km/hr. with higher gusts. No significant change in strength is forecast for the next 24 hours.”

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 30 miles/45 kms from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 105 miles/165 kms. Minimum central pressure estimated from an air force reserve reconnaissance aircraft is 954 mb/28.17 inches.

Strong winds, heavy rains and high tides battered the Mexican coast for most of yesterday and last night, but no deaths were reported, and so far property damage appears minimal. Many popular tourist resorts, including Puerto Vallarta, were in the storm’s path, and authorities ordered the evacuation of local residents from low lying and flood prone areas. Tourists visiting the region were told to stay in their hotels until John had passed. Hurricane and tropical storm warnings for the Mexican mainland have now been cancelled.

However, John poses a direct threat to the lower portions of the Baja Peninsula, including San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, and La Paz the region’s capital. A hurricane warning remains in effect for the entire Southern Baja Peninsula from San Everisto southward on the East Coast and from Bahia Magdalena southward on the West Coast. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Central Baja Peninsula from Punta Abreojos southward to Bahia Magdalena on the West Coast and northward from San Everisto to Loreto on the East Coast. A hurricane watch also remains in place along the West Coast and a tropical storm watch along the East Coast.

Some 10,000 people, including many American tourists, have already been evacuated from the threatened areas, and more are preparing to flee. Those who remain are stocking up on water, gasoline, and other supplies, and boarding up buildings in preparation.

The NHC reported that as of 8:00 a.m. the center of Hurricane John was located about 95 miles/150 kms southeast of the southern tip of Baja and about 160 miles/255 kms west-northwest of Las Islas Marias. The storm is moving slowly towards the northwest at around 7 mph/11 km/hr. “On this track John will be very close to Southern Baja California later today,” said the NHC.

Coastal storm surge flooding of up to 5 feet/1.5 meters above normal tide levels along with “large and dangerous battering waves can be expected in areas of onshore flow near the path of the center of the hurricane.” Rainfall amounts of 6 to 10 inches/15.24 to 25.4 cms with isolated maximum storm totals up to 15 inches/38 cms are possible across the area.

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