Ignacio's Thumbprint On Mexico

A layer of low, heavy clouds cover the ocean during sunset at La Paz, Mexico Monday Aug. 25, 2003, after Hurricane Ignacio passed over the harbor.
AP
The storm that was Hurricane Ignacio hit land at barely tropical storm force Tuesday, cutting off the state capital and the tourist resort of Los Cabos with mudslides and washed out roads and leaving behind a trail of stranded travelers.

As airports reopened and residents began to return to their homes after two nights in shelters, travelers from the United States and elsewhere began trying to get home.

"My husband is running out of his diabetes and blood pressure medications and my kid starts college next week. We have to get back," said Judy Masuda, 46, a state government employee from Sacramento, Calif., whose flight was canceled Monday when the airport closed.

"I'm never going to come here again," Masuda said as she waited more than five hours at the La Paz airport for a flight to the border city of Tijuana - the only destination available.

"We'll have to rent a car and drive across the border," Masuda said.

Travel by land wasn't any easier.

Main roads out of La Paz were closed, with some cut off in several places by floods and mudslides, said Baja California Sur state civil defense employee Rembrand Diaz.

The storm moved inland, bringing heavy rain to Loreto, a fishing and beach resort about 140 miles to the north of La Paz.

"We have evacuated about 150 people to shelters. The rain was very intense, but we've taken all the precautions," Loreto town councilman Luis Fernando Peralta said. "There is water covering some streets, but that will go down once the rain stops."

The storm's center was located about 70 miles south of Loreto near the Gulf of California coast and was moving slowly northwest at 3 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.

The hurricane's winds, once over 90 mph, ripped boats from their moorings in La Paz and threw at least three sailboats against the rocks. By Tuesday, Ignacio's winds declined to about 40 mph and the storm was weakening as it moved inland.

A tropical storm warning remained in effect for the east coast of Baja California, from Loreto to La Paz, and on the western, Pacific coast from Puerto San Andresito to Santa Fe.

Forecasters said the storm could dissipate before the weekend, and local residents seemed glad to see some rain in the desert peninsula.

"This storm brought more good things than bad," said Rear Adm. Joaquin Garciasilva, a navy commander based in the area, noting that that the rains helped partially fill the local reservoir.

People who live in the area seemed less worried than tourists who found themselves stuck - sometimes for days - in the soaked port.

"I've been stuck here for two days," said Ted Huffman of Los Angeles, who had come to scuba dive in the normally clear waters around La Paz. "They gave me a ticket for tomorrow, but that's only because I went in and got a little aggressive," Huffman said as he left an airline ticket office.

"Since they're the only people with direct flights, I guess they can pretty much do what they want" with passengers, he said.

By Mark Stevenson