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Odile ravages Cabo San Lucas, strongest known hurricane to hit Baja Peninsula

Odile at landfall (NASA)

Hurricane Odile crashed ashore Sunday night tied for the most intense hurricane on record to strike Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The large and powerful Category 3 hurricane packed sustained winds of 125 mph as its eye passed very near the popular vacation destination Cabo San Lucas.  Reports and photos are just beginning to trickle in and, based on early accounts, the damage appears to be devastating.

The storm has weakened modestly but continues to batter the Baja Peninsula with sustained winds up to 110 mph, torrential rain, coastal flooding and “large and destructive” waves, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Odile’s size, strength, and track was and is a worst case scenario for this region.  The storm’s angle of approach positioned much of the Peninsula for its strongest winds and – for coastal locations – its biggest waves and storm surge.

“It’s very rare to get a major hurricane [ category 3 or higher] to reach the Baja Peninsula,” said Brian McNoldy, Capital Weather Gang’s tropical weather expert.  “I found just two previous storms in the records to make landfall as major hurricanes: Kiko (1989) and Olivia (1967).”

McNoldy said Odile’s intensity exceeded Kiko’s and matched Olivia’s.  “Specifically in Cabo San Lucas, it was the most intense landfall,” McNoldy added.

After riding out Odile at a hotel near Cabo, California-based storm chaser Josh Morgerman, who  has experienced numerous landfalling hurricanes, called Odile “one of the worst cyclones I’ve ever been in.”

Morgerman posted eyewitness reports on Facebook as the storm slammed his location, including this harrowing account as the eyewall passed directly overhead:

[A]t maybe midnight… BOOM!!!!! The entire glass wall of the lobby EXPLODED– with glass, pieces of building, everything flying to the other end of the lobby. Like an explosion in an action movie. A hotel worker and I ducked under the reception counter– I physically grabbed his head and pushed it under the counter. Glass was everywhere– my leg gashed– blood. We crawled into the office– me, the worker, and the manager– but the ceiling started to lift up. After five minutes of debate– breathing hard like three trapped animals– we made a run for it– went running like HELL across the lobby– which is now basically just OUTSIDE– and made it to the stairwell and an interior hallway. Two nice women dressed my wound

Morgerman later reported: “Parts of the hotel are smashed beyond recognition.”

Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters noted a personal weather station near San Jose del Cabo recorded winds of 76 mph and gusts to 114 mph between 11 and 11:30 p.m. local time Sunday night. An automatic weather station of the National Weather Service in Cabo San Lucas recorded (before it stopped operating) winds of 90 mph with gusts to 116 mph.

Ahead of the storm 64 shelters had been prepared for as many as 30,000 people along the Baja Peninsula’s southern tip where the storm made landfall. The two largest population centers there, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, contain about 140,000 people.

After Odile rides up the Baja Peninsula – substantially weakening along the way – its remnants are expected to reach the U.S. Desert Southwest Tuesday through Thursday, where flooding rains will be a possibility.