CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico – Hurricane Odile raked the Baja California Peninsula with strong winds and heavy rains early Monday as locals and tourists in the resort area of Los Cabos began to emerge from shelters and assess the damage.
The extent of Odile's impact was still not clear before daybreak, but the storm severely damaged hotel lobbies and facades, shattered windows and left streets full of debris. The windows at the area's Westin Hotel had been blown out.
The newspaper Tribuna de los Cabos reported people being injured by flying glass, power lines and traffic signals down throughout the city, and a fire at the Cascadas resort on Medano Beach. No details about the blaze were immediately available.
By early Monday, the storm's maximum sustained winds were near 115 mph (185 kph) as it moved over the peninsula as a Category 2 hurricane. It was centered about 140 miles (230 kilometers) east-southeast of Cabo San Lazaro.
People hunkered down in shelters and hotel conference rooms overnight as the powerful and sprawling storm made landfall Sunday night as a powerful Category 3 storm near Cabo San Lucas with an estimated intensity of 125 mph (205 kph).
The area is home to gleaming megaresorts, tiny fishing communities and low-lying neighborhoods of flimsy homes. Forecasters predicted a dangerous storm surge with large waves as well as drenching rains capable of causing landslides and flash floods.
As howling winds whipped palm trees amid pelting rain outside, people bedded down and used magazines to fan themselves in stuffy safe rooms. In one hotel near San Jose del Cabo, residents moved from a makeshift shelter into crowded basement storage areas after the boarded up windows blew out.
Denise Mellor, a traveler from Orange County, California, was frustrated about a lack of information about the storm and said she was learning more from her daughter back home than from hotel workers.
"It's a little bit (unsettling) that we don't have a choice but to sit in here and hope for the best," Mellor said. "So that makes me a little bit scared."
Mexican authorities evacuated coastal areas and readied shelters for up to 30,000 people.
"We are going to be hit, do not risk your life," warned Marcos Covarrubias, governor of Baja California Sur.
After reaching Category 4 strength on Sunday, Odile weakened some to Category 3 but was still a major storm. The U.S. hurricane center warned of possible coastal flooding and rainfall of 5 to 10 inches, with isolated amounts up to 15 inches.
On Sunday, police with megaphones walked through vulnerable areas in Cabo San Lucas urging people to evacuate.
"I'm leaving. It's very dangerous here," said Felipa Flores, clutching a plastic bag with a few belongings as she took her two small children from her neighborhood of El Caribe to a storm shelter. "Later on we're going to be cut off and my house of wood and laminated cardboard won't stand up to much."
At least 22 airline flights were canceled. Some tourists camped out at the Los Cabos international airport hoping to get out before the storm, but the facility shut down all air operations late in the afternoon.
Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator for Mexico's civil protection agency, said 164 shelters had been prepared for as many as 30,000 people in Baja California Sur.
A hurricane warning was in effect from Punta Abreojos to Loreto. Mexican authorities declared a maximum alert for areas in or near Odile's path, and ports in Baja California were ordered closed.
Meanwhile in the central Atlantic, Hurricane Edouard strengthened to a Category 2 storm early Monday with maximum sustained winds near 105 mph (165 kph), although it was forecast to remain far out at sea and pose no threat to land.
The U.S. hurricane center said Edouard's center was 720 miles (1,160 kilometers) east-southeast of Bermuda and was moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).
Associated Press writer Maria Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.