SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico – Strong winds from Tropical Storm Bud were whipping the southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, home to the popular beach resorts of Los Cabos, as locals and tourists prepared for its arrival.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said late Thursday night that Bud was skirting the coast but was expected to move across the peninsula overnight and over the Gulf of California on Friday, reaching Mexico’s mainland by Friday night. Its center was about 30 miles (45 kilometers) east-northeast of Cabo San Lucas.
Bud was lashing palms trees and its waves were pounding the sand Thursday on the Baja peninsula, where memories are still fresh of the extensive damage done in 2014 by a direct hit from Category 3 Hurricane Odile, and hotel operators were taking no chances.
Workers at the Marquis Los Cabos hotel in San Jose del Cabo spent the last three days battening down the hatches — anchoring palm trees and using tarps to cover large windows that had all shattered during Odile.
Overall, however, there was a sense of relief that Bud had been sapped of most of its punch from when it was a Category 4 hurricane two days earlier with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (210 kph).
By Thursday wind speeds had dropped to 40 mph (65 kph), strong enough to potentially do some damage, but likely nothing resembling the devastation wrought by Odile four years ago.
The international airport appeared to be operating normally in the afternoon.
Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, said all measures to protect the community and tourists were in place.
For a tropical storm that means things like securing outdoor furniture to keep it from being hurtled around by the winds, but not evacuations or putting guests in shelters.
“That is done when you have a hurricane that is Category 2 or 3 or more,” Esponda said.
Esponda said that in the wake of the 2014 hurricane, authorities reviewed storm protocols and made some changes such as outfitting certain officials with satellite phones to communicate no matter what. Authorities periodically review storm preparedness at hotels and ensure employees have the right training in how to react.
“There were many, many, many, many lessons learned after Hurricane Odile. … There could be some eventuality depending on mother nature, but the lessons are definitely there,” he said.
Bud, the second named storm of the 2018 Pacific hurricane season, was moving toward the north at 8 mph (13 kph) and further weakening was expected, but it was forecast to still be at tropical-storm strength when it reaches land later in the day.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Baja coast from Santa Fe to the state capital, La Paz, and tropical storm watches were issued for a stretch of the peninsula north of La Paz and from Altata to Huatabampito on the mainland.
The Baja California Sur state government said the ports of Los Cabos were closed to all watercraft beginning midday Wednesday.
The hurricane center said the storm could cause dangerous surf and bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to southern Baja California Sur and Sonora states on the mainland, threatening floods and landslides.
Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo receive millions of international and domestic tourists each year.
Also Thursday a tropical depression formed in the afternoon off southern Mexico, about 105 miles (170 kilometers) south-southwest of Acapulco.
The hurricane center forecast it to strengthen into a tropical storm Friday and approach land by the weekend. The new storm was expected to dump 4 to 6 inches of rain along the coast of Guerrero state, including Acapulco.
Associated Press writer Peter Orsi contributed from Mexico City.