Juliette strengthens into major hurricane, could threaten Baja peninsula

Wednesday, September 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Hurricane Juliette barreled toward Mexico's southwestern coast on Wednesday, triggering floods and high seas that were blamed for the death of a fisherman.

The Category 4 hurricane was centered about 370 miles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of Baja California, and was racing mainly westward at about 9 mph.

Juliette, with winds of 140 mph, was expected to drop heavy rains on southern Baja late Wednesday. Dangerous surf conditions were likely to affect the coastal areas of southwestern Mexico, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Forecasters called the hurricane ``extremely dangerous,'' saying that hurricane-force winds extended as far as 70 miles from the storm's center.

They noted that its atmospheric pressure _ one measure of the storm's strength _ was the second-lowest on record for a Pacific hurricane in this hemisphere, second only to Hurricane Ava of 1973. Hurricanes feed off low-pressure cells over warm ocean waters.

Heavy rain associated with Juliette flooded more than 200 homes in the western Pacific state of Michoacan, and the Mexican army sent transport and rescue aircraft, medical teams and emergency supplies.

Rain-swollen rivers knocked out two bridges in Oaxaca state, farther east.

The storm's outer rain bands already had caused flooding and downed trees in southern Mexico. A fisherman died near Acapulco when his small open boat capsized in high seas on Monday, the government news agency Notimex reported.

Several southern Pacific ports were closed due to high seas, and heavy rain warnings were posted for most of the southern Mexican coast.

Forecasters said once Juliette moved to cooler water it was expected to weaken.

Category 4 hurricanes are capable of causing extreme damage and extensive flooding. Storms born off Mexico's southern coast rarely affect the United States.