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Dangerous hurricane headed for western Mexico

By Susy Buchanan
/ Source: Reuters

By Susy Buchanan

Hurricane Jimena, a dangerous Category 4 storm, churned toward Mexico's Baja California Peninsula on Monday, headed for the upscale resort of Los Cabos where residents and tourists stocked up on fuel and food.

Jimena, which built up fast over the weekend, was packing 145 mph winds with higher gusts. According to the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, Category 4 hurricanes are "extremely dangerous" and can cause devastating damage if they hit land.

Much of Baja California is sparsely populated desert and mountains but Los Cabos is a lively resort area popular with U.S. tourists for its world-class golf courses, yachting and beaches.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast Jimena would hit the area on Tuesday and move inland on Wednesday.

The storm was a safe distance from shore on Monday and Los Cabos, at the tip of the peninsula, was overcast but calm.

But Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the south of the peninsula and the hurricane center predicted significant coastal flooding and said: "Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion."

Economy officials from dozens of countries will meet this week in Los Cabos to discuss tax havens.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is going ahead with its meeting. Many of the delegates from around 70 countries had already arrived.

"The meeting is expected to go ahead despite the threat of extreme storms due to Hurricane Jimena," the OECD said in a statement. OECD head Angel Gurria will be at the talks, aimed at persuading more countries to share tax information.

HEAVY RAIN FORECAST

The length of the Baja California Peninsula is popular with U.S. camper van enthusiasts, nature lovers, surfers, sports fishermen and retirees.

The hurricane center said Jimena could dump 5 to 10 inches of rain on the southern portion of Baja California.

"I'm a little nervous about this one because my husband is out of town and it will be my first hurricane alone," Christy Dobson, an 11-year resident of Los Cabos originally from Oklahoma, said at the weekend as she stocked up on food.

Californian Lynn Perre, who owns a condo in Los Cabos, and her mother Beverly Boyer decided to cut short their vacation and fly out. "I'm nervous and frightened," said Boyer.

Jimena was located about 355 miles southeast of Cabo San Lucas and moving northwest, roughly parallel to the Mexican coastline, at 8 mph. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 30 miles from its center.

Mexico has no oil installations in the Pacific and ports in the area remained open.

Jimena is the second hurricane of the 2009 eastern Pacific season to brush close to Mexico after Andres pounded the coast in June and swept a fisherman to his death in Acapulco.

Further out in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Kevin petered out and was set to weaken to a depression later on Monday.