Ignacio Stalls, Loses Steam

Kenny Mackie, 48, of Long Butte, British Columbia, speaks with journalists Monday Aug. 25, 2003, after his 30-foot sailboat "Inertia", center, was ripped from its mooring in La Paz harbor in the pre-dawn darkness. Hurricane Ignacio drenched fishermen and tourists Monday along the Baja California Peninsula, where it stalled after forcing more than 3,000 people from their homes.
AP
Ignacio weakened to a tropical storm Tuesday as it remained stalled off the southern Baja California Peninsula and forecasters said it could dissipate within a day.

But as the hurricane slowly drifted northwest at 2 mph, it was expected to dump large amounts of rainfall, posing serious flash flooding and mudslide threats, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

A hurricane warning remained in effect for the east coast of Baja from San Evaristo to La Paz. The warning was expected to be discontinued later Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Sustained winds dropped to 70 mph early Tuesday, four miles below the minimum speed for a hurricane.

The hurricane left hundreds of tourists stranded by canceled flights Monday night and forced the evacuation of nearly 3,000 people as it roared along the coast.

Mudslides cut one highway, and the hurricane's winds — which topped 90 mph — blew down trees, signposts and power cables.

There were no reports of any deaths or injuries, and the fear that marked the howling winds near dawn gave way to weariness later.

"Some people come in and say, 'Look, I just have to get back to my job, or my family,"' said airline ticket counter attendant Mauricio Bautista. "But most people are calm."

Most airline seats were booked solid through the end of the week with tourists seeking to get out even before Ignacio struck, and with the La Paz airport shut down by the storm Monday.

"We're really stuck," said Luciano Rea, 30, of Naples, Italy, as he stood on the rain-drenched sidewalk outside an airline ticket office.

Rea has been trying to get a flight to the United States for three days, without luck. But a bright spot opened for other travelers when the airport opened again at San Jose del Cabo, about 50 miles south of La Paz, at the peninsula's tip.

Meanwhile, La Paz residents evacuated from their homes late Sunday already wanted to leave shelters and go home Monday, after spending the night on classroom floors at schools.

But the state government warned of the continued threat of heavy rains.

State officials acknowledged some were already leaving shelters to check on the their meager possessions in La Paz's shanty towns.

"The hard part about last night was how hard the floor was," said Paloma Garcia, who, along with her sons Angel and Christian, left their home in the Calandria neighborhood to take refuge in a classroom at a university. "Now I just want to go home and see how my house is."

Through much of the day, Mexican sailors using motorboats struggled against strong winds to pull sailboats off the rocks in the harbor of La Paz, the state capital and a center for fishermen and tourists.

Forecasters said the storm was likely to crawl slowly up the southern Gulf of California toward Loreto, while gradually edging over the peninsula itself. But the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday the storm could dissipate within 24 hours.