MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Hurricane Lorena lashed parts of the Gulf of California with heavy rains and strong winds on Friday evening, wrongfooting meteorologists with a shift that sent it moving northwest away from the Mexican beach resorts of Los Cabos.
Lorena, a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, was about 60 miles north-northeast of Cabo San Lucas with maximum sustained winds of up to 85 mph (140 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a statement.
The storm’s arrival prompted flights to Los Cabos to be cancelled and local schools to call off classes. However, its beach resorts appeared to have avoided the worst of the storm.
Conagua, Mexico’s national water authority, said the storm had caused heavy downpours to the east in areas on and around the coast of the Gulf of California in the states of Sinaloa and Nayarit, as well as parts of Sonora and Durango farther inland.
The Miami-based NHC said the future track of the hurricane was “highly uncertain” and that it would likely weaken if it moved inland along the spine of the Baja California peninsula. But Lorena could strengthen if it churned up through the waters of the Gulf of California, it said.
Earlier, the NHC had forecast Lorena would cross the peninsula and move northwest over the Pacific Ocean. However, by early evening, the hurricane was moving to the northwest at about 5 mph (8 kph), hugging the eastern flank of the state of Baja California Sur.
Scores of people have entered temporary shelters in Los Cabos, according to local civil protection authorities who warned residents to retreat from coastal areas.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the Baja California peninsula from La Paz to Puerto Cortes, the NHC said. A hurricane watch has been issued for the east coast of the peninsula north of La Paz to Santa Rosalia, it added.
Lorena is forecast to produce 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm) of rain in parts of southern Baja California Sur, and as much as 8 inches (20 cm) in some areas, the NHC said.
The storm may cause flash flooding as well as swells that spark life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
Reporting by Dave Graham and Miguel Gutierrez; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Stefanie Eschenbacher and Sharay Angulo; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler