October 12, 2008 / 3:51 AM / 10 years ago

Hurricane Norbert storms Mexico's Baja peninsula

LA PAZ, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane Norbert smacked Mexico’s Baja California peninsula on Saturday, blowing roofs off buildings, knocking down trees and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate flood-prone areas.

Norbert blew across the peninsula near the city of La Paz as a Category 2 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, before entering the Gulf of California and losing strength, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

The storm made landfall for a second time as a weaker Category 1 hurricane, pummeling the agricultural states of Sonora and Sinaloa with heavy rains and sustained winds as high as 85 mph.

Norbert was not expected to cause any damage to mining interests in northern Mexico.

As Norbert moved across Baja California, it avoided a direct hit on the beach resort of Los Cabos, a popular destination for U.S. tourists.

“It’s blowing down roofs and destroying things in its path,” Jose Gajon, head of civil protection in Baja California Sur, told Reuters.

Rescue authorities have evacuated Mexicans from houses made of wood and sheet metal in low-lying areas in danger of flooding.

The region is not home to oil installations.

As Norbert’s violent winds slammed into La Paz, a few last-minute drivers struggled to close their car doors on streets littered with uprooted palm trees and a “Happy Hour” sign ripped from a restaurant entrance.

California resident Louis Sebulsky, in La Paz to help build a golf course, moved from his trailer to a hotel as Norbert approached.

“We are going to sit right here in the lobby and wait this one out,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of food and all we can do is hope for the best.”

Tropical Storm Odile, south of Norbert in the Pacific, moved north-west along Mexico’s coastline near the port of Manzanillo, threatening to dump rain and putting the region at risk of flash floods and mudslides.

Odile’s winds reached 40 mph but should begin to weaken soon, the hurricane center said.

Writing by Noel Randewich, Additional reporting by Luis Rojas Mena, editing by Jackie Frank

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