-- Hurricane Otis's outer bands lashed the coast of western Mexico on Saturday as the storm crawled toward the Baja California peninsula, forcing hundreds of families to evacuate their homes and flooding roads in this resort city.
The Category 1 hurricane weakened but still had winds up to 85 mph as it headed northward off the coast of Baja. Forecasters expected Otis to skirt past Cabo San Lucas and move ashore along a sparsely populated stretch of desert farther north as early as Sunday evening, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Narciso Agundez, governor of the state of Baja California Sur, ordered emergency personnel to the community of Comondu, as well as tourist-friendly Loreto and Mulege, closer to where the center of Otis was likely to hit land. He asked soldiers to help evacuate the islands of Magdalena and Margarita, off the coast of Comondu.
Periods of strong winds and heavy rains were mixed with mostly sunny skies over Cabo San Lucas.
Calm prevailed in the hotel zones, but Mayor Luis Armando Diaz led voluntary evacuations from the city's poor outskirts, where many homes are little more than wood and metal shacks.
About 700 families had evacuated to shelters in Cabo San Lucas, and more than 200 families evacuated in San Jose del Cabo, a nearby tourist destination to the northeast. There were also small-scale evacuations in Miraflores and Santiago, slightly farther north.
Mexico declared a state of emergency to help cope with heavy rains in five communities, including Cabo San Lucas.
Extended forecasts showed the storm weakening as it moved across the sparsely populated Baja California peninsula, then bringing rains to parts of western Texas and southern Arizona by early next week.
Otis was the 15th Pacific storm of the season. Unlike powerful Atlantic storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Pacific hurricanes tend to do less damage because they make landfall less often. Like their Atlantic counterparts, they are given names that correspond to the alphabet.
Also Saturday, the season's 20th tropical depression was drifting toward Mexico in the western Caribbean, prompting the government to issue tropical storm warnings for the Yucatan Peninsula.
The depression was centered 95 miles east of Tulum and about 95 miles southeast of Cozumel, according to the U.S. hurricane center. It was moving west at 6 mph. The system had sustained winds of 30 mph but could become a named tropical storm before making landfall, according to the center.