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The Aftermath of Hurricane Norbert

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Cabo weather - Norbert aftermath

Massive swells crahing into Land's End. Photo by Kathi Hammer.

Dangerous Floodwaters, Huge Waves Pound Los Cabos After Hurricane Norbert Leaves Town

Hurricane Norbert greeted Los Cabos early Thursday morning with bouts of heavy rain followed by a windy afternoon with intermittent heavy rain and flash flooding in the arroyos (dry river beds). Wind speeds picked up as Norbert reached its closest point Thursday evening. Strong winds and sporadic squalls of rain persisted through Friday afternoon.

Heavy surf caused the closure of all beaches and marinas with waves measuring 4 meters or more. The sight of swells crashing into Land’s End was impressive, as some waves broke over the top of the smaller formations of Land’s End such as the rock referred to as the Scooby Doo rock. Downtown Cabo streets were littered with palm fronds and branches and even though buildings avoided structural damage, the Love Shack bar lost its sign.

Five inbound Cabo flights were cancelled, including a Virgin America flight from San Francisco, Westjet flight from Calgary and Southwest flight from Santa Ana. All local schools were cancelled on Thursday and Friday. Several rural communities in the San Jose area were left without electricity, including Santa Catarina, Palo Escopeta and Animas Altas.

Many roads were affected, however, and they were not all dirt roads. The strength of floodwaters swept away pavement in some areas. Though many stretches of Highway 1, the highway that connects San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, suffered severe flooding during the storm, no washouts have been reported.

No severe damages have been reported. As such, after a hurricane or tropical storm such as Norbert, many tourists and even locals comment that “nothing happened, again.”

Though it is true that most storms that approach the Baja do not cause catastrophic damage, most tourists do not consider the effect the storm has on those residents who live on or near large arroyos and the destructive capabilities of large swells and waves. No loss of life has been reported, but both of these natural forces significantly affected residents of Los Cabos during Hurricane Norbert.

Local Los Cabos government agencies teamed with the Secretaria de la Marina y Armada de Mexico (Mexico’s Marines and Navy) to persuade residents of dangerous flood zones to leave their homes. Some of these dwellings are legal, but many are inhabited by squatters who do not want to abandon their homes, as meager as they may be.

The Mexican armed forces were successful in persuading many to accept help, with more than 1,000 people reported to have spent the night in seven temporary shelters. The shelters provided dry blankets, food and medical assistance to those in need.

The strength of storm water flowing in arroyos can be misleading. It is quite common for a road to pass through an arroyo, and though they stay dry more than 350 days per year, when the water is moving they can be extraordinarily dangerous. These flows are often stronger after the rains have halted. Videos filmed by local residents show that many vehicles attempt to pass through these floodwaters. At least one family that attempted this maneuver placed themselves in extreme danger. As they tried to cross a flowing arroyo their pickup truck was swept away by the overpowering force of the floodwaters. The truck became trapped downstream and the occupants were faced with the life-threatening task of swimming out of the rushing waters. Luckily, the Bomberos de San Jose (fire fighters) soon arrived, called by someone who observed the accident, and were able to rescue the 3 passengers with no injuries.

One Los Cabos resort may have suffered damage from ocean swells. Waves entered the property and pool area of Marbella Suites, located just above the beach on the highway corridor (see second video, below). No injuries were reported.

Cleanup has already commenced and will continue for the next few days. Dirt will be cleared and roads will be repaired. Palapas at resorts and beach restaurants will be rebuilt. All in all, Los Cabos came out of Norbert in pretty good shape.

By Brian Florky

For current Cabo Weather information and Hurricane History click here 

Aftermath of Hurricane Norbert in Cabo. Video courtesy of Tribuna Los Cabos.

Video of large swells entering Marbella Suites hotel.

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