Hurricane Jimena Drenches Baja; Erika Threatens Puerto Rico

Jimena's winds down to 85 mph; Erika Threatens Islands.

September 2, 2009, 11:56 AM

Sept. 2, 2009 — -- The winds from Hurricane Jimena slowed on Wednesday afternoon as the storm drenched Baja California. But with sustained winds of 85 mph, forecasters warned people the storm was still dangerous -- and often, the greatest threat is the flooding that follows the storm itself.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic Ocean, Tropical Storm Erika blew past Antigua, Guadeloupe, Martinique and other islands with 40 mph winds. Tropical storm watches were posted for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Mexico had the stronger storm. Thousands of people had already fled Baja to avoid Jimena; many of those who stayed found themselves flooded and without electricity.

"The transformer across the street blew up with a big bang, and then two others went up off the street," an American tourist visiting Los Cabos told ABC's David Kerley. "So we're out of power, but we got some groceries, you know, some provisions."

Baja is home to about 3.5 million people, including more than 150,000 U.S. citizens, according to the State Department.

As usually happens when a hurricane makes landfall, Jimena quickly lost a lot of its strength. At sea, tropical storms draw their fuel from the steamy water beneath them and do not retain their spiral shape for long once they move over irregular ground.

In contrast to a day ago, the National Hurricane Center's forecast map now shows Jimena meandering over Baja, and probably wandering back out into the Pacific this weekend -- reduced by then to a tropical depression, with winds below 40 mph. Forecasters had previously expected it to stay on a northerly path, possibly bringing rain to Arizona and New Mexico.

In the meantime, Erika qualified as a minimal tropical storm in the Atlantic. But its winds extended up to 205 miles from the center, according to the National Hurricane Center.

This afternoon it passed Guadeloupe, moving to the west-northwest at about 10 mph. Maps showed it about 300 miles from Puerto Rico, and 1,300 miles from Miami. Several of the computer models used by the hurricane center show that Erika could pass directly over Puerto Rico on Friday morning, though the path could change.

There was good news: the newest forecasts show Erika petering out as it gets closer to the Bahamas this weekend, when it may be little more than an intense rain storm. But hurricane researchers say predicting the strength of a storm is tricky, and they urged people in the area not to be casual about Erika's approach.

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