Tourists flee Baja California as Hurricane Jimena approaches


Powerful Hurricane Jimena is barreling toward the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja, California peninsula, scaring away tourists and forcing authorities to evacuate thousands of reluctant residents from poor neighborhoods.

Police, firefighters and military personnel drove through shantytowns, trying to persuade some 10,000 people to evacuate shacks made of plastic sheeting, wood, reeds and even blankets.

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Mexico’s government has extended its hurricane warning northward along the west and east coast of the peninsula.

At last report, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm had weakened slightly, with winds blowing at 215 kilometers per hour.

Jimena is 175 kilometers southwest of the popular resort town Cabo San Lucas and could make landfall as early as Tuesday. Its storm surge, along with battering waves, will likely produce significant coastal flooding along the peninsula.

Gradual weakening is forecast on Wednesday, but meteorologists say Jimena is expected to remain a major hurricane until landfall.

Much of Baja California is sparsely populated desert and mountains that are popular with nature lovers, surfers, sports fishermen and retirees.

Los Cabos, which is a more built-up area, attracts tourists to its golf courses, resorts and beaches.

Jimena’s approach has already prompted the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to move an international meeting on tax havens from Los Cabos to Mexico City. The two-day talks are taking place Tuesday and Wednesday.

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert urging Americans to consider carefully the risks of travel to areas in Mexico that might be affected by the hurricane.