Juliette lingers over Mexico's Baja peninsula, losing power after causing floods

Saturday, September 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP) _ Hurricane Juliette lost power as it lingered over the southern tip of Baja California on Saturday, weakening to a tropical storm after causing heavy flooding and killing three people.

Winds that roared onto the tip of the Baja peninsula at 85 mph slowed to about 65 mph. A light rain replaced lashing downpours that had turned dry ditches into raging rivers, cutting off about 3,000 people in three neighborhoods of Cabo San Lucas, a resort city of 25,000.

The storm was expected to move little Saturday, prolonging rains and high winds over the peninsula.

Cabo San Lucas remained cut off from the rest of the peninsula after the bridge on the main highway washed out and floodwaters blocked smaller roads leading out of the city on Baja's southern tip. It was without power and most businesses remained closed.

Juliette flattened some of the poorer residents' wooden shacks or ripped off their aluminum roofs. About 800 people have been evacuated from flimsy housing. The storm also uprooted trees and knocked down power lines, but most of the city sustained no major damage.

As Juliette lost some of its ferocity, some of the residents whose neighborhoods had been isolated by the newly formed rivers began wading through the knee-deep waters with the help of soldiers and marines. Some said they had left government shelters because they had run out of food.

The body of a 33-year-old man was found floating in rough seas Friday near Huatabampo, a mainland Mexico port 250 miles north of Cabo San Lucas. The man's father and brother survived after their boat capsized in heavy seas Thursday, the government news agency Notimex reported.

The storm has been blamed in the deaths of two other people, including William Creson, 45, of Denver, who drowned while surfing in 10-foot waves as the storm approached on Wednesday. A fisherman died in high seas Monday near Acapulco.

Luxury beachfront hotels in Cabo San Lucas withstood the storm, although some windows were shattered and pools filled with storm-blown sand.

Sheets of rain blasted through the open-air lobby of the seaside Solmar resort on Friday. Shivering tourists in soaked T-shirts and shorts wandered around, asking when the nearby airport would reopen or when telephone service would resume.

``I just want to go home,'' said a drenched Lisa Kelly-Hudson, 30, of Petaluma, Calif.

Juliette's winds fell to 70 mph on Friday, downgrading it to a tropical storm. But it later redeveloped an eye and became a hurricane again with winds of 75 mph.

``The wind was so strong we could barely walk,'' said Tom Brock, 52, of Boulder, Colo. ``Big gobs of sand the size of my finger were hitting us in the face.''

Brock and his wife came to celebrate their second wedding anniversary, but said they wanted to get home after the storm dumped 3 inches of water in their room.

The storm was virtually stalled Friday, with its eye 75 miles northwest of Cabo San Lucas. It was expected to stay put through Saturday, and then possibly edge up the Baja California coastline. Forecasters said it was unlikely to reach the U.S. border but might spread rains into the southwestern United States.