A tropical storm warning was issued early Tuesday for the southern portion of Mexico's Baja California peninsula as Tropical Storm Rick approached.
A tropical storm warning was issued early Tuesday for the southern portion of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula as Tropical Storm Rick approached.
In addition, a tropical storm watch was issued for the western coast of mainland Mexico from El Roblito northward through Altata.
A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within 24 hours. A tropical storm watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours.
Rick had been a hurricane but rapidly lost steam and became a tropical storm Monday as it neared the Baja California peninsula, after kicking up powerful waves that killed two people and sent tourists looking for flights out of Los Cabos.
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Authorities in the resort city still warned of expected heavy downpours and possible floods, however, and said seven shelters would be open Tuesday at schools for people in low-lying neighborhoods.
“We are going to get a lot of rain,” said Los Cabos civil defense director Francisco Cota. Soldiers were sent to help with possible evacuations.
At the Los Cabos airport, American Airlines spokesman Alfredo Hernandez said the carrier added an extra flight to Dallas on Tuesday after fielding requests from tourists anxious to get out ahead of the storm.
Hotel employees cleared furniture from balconies and patios but stopped short from boarding up windows or moving guests to shelters.
Jesus Rubio, a receptionist at the Hotel Sinisterra, said management briefed workers on the hotel’s contingency plan but had not decided to implement it. He said only a few guests left because of the storm.
“There is water, food and electricity, and with those three things (the guests) are happier,” Rubio said.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm’s maximum sustained winds died down to 65 mph (100 kph) over cooler waters that sapped its energy.
As of 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the storm was centered about 265 miles (425 kilometers) south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas, where the storm was already pushing in 13-foot (4-meter) waves a day before its expected landfall.
The storm was expected to continue weakening and near the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
At one point during the weekend, Rick’s winds were clocked at 180 mph (290 kph) – making it an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane and the second strongest storm in the eastern North Pacific since experts began keeping reliable records in 1966, Hurricane Center meteorologist Hugh Cobb said.
The strongest was Hurricane Linda, which generated maximum winds of 185 mph (297 kph) in September 1997.
Long before Rick neared the peninsula, its powerful surf claimed two victims: A 16-year-old boy swimming at El Medano beach drowned Monday, and a 38-year-old man fishing from a rocky point was swept away by a big wave the previous day.
Rick also threatened to disrupt a major sport-fishing tournament scheduled to start Wednesday.
Meanwhile, far out in the Pacific Ocean, Tropical Storm Neki was about 565 miles (909 kilometers) east-southeast of tiny Johnston Island, where a hurricane watch was issued.
Maximum winds were at about 45 mph (72 kph), but forecasters said Neki was expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Tuesday and pass near Johnston Island possibly the following day.
The uninhabited island, which is part of the isolated Johnston Atoll, is under the primary jurisdiction and control of the U.S. Air Force. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a national wildlife refuge there.
Associated Press writer Ignacio Martinez in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, contributed to this report.