Cabo hit hard by Hurricane Odile
By Dani DeVries
Spring break is usually the time when the University of San Diego community has Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on the brain. However, in the wake of the recent landfall of Hurricane Odile, the Baja California resort town is making headlines for more than just wild parties this year.
On Sept. 14, Hurricane Odile, a Category 3 storm, struck Baja California Sur. Odile caused immense damage to the Cabo municipalities, which include Cabo San Lucas, Cabo San Jose and La Paz, as well as the surrounding inland cities. With wind speeds reaching up to 125 miles per hour and massive amounts of rain, the flooding and wind damage have devastated the area.
According to NBC News, stranded tourists have deemed the popular resort town a “demolished paradise.” Due to the closure of the three local airports, hundreds of people were unable to get back home. Mostly as a result of flying debris, 135 people have been reported injured, but so far no deaths have occurred in connection with the storm.
Thousands of people, locals and tourists alike, have been displaced. Damage to roads and the local airport is making it very difficult to get help to the community. The Mexican Civil Defense Office reported that the Cabo area has been without electricity or clean water for several days.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, some local Cabo residents have provided assistance to stranded tourists, including bringing them food.
Sophomore Alec Bangert lived in La Paz, located two hours north of Los Cabos, with a host family from 2012 until 2013, as part of an exchange program before coming to USD.
Bangert said that he has has followed news of the storm with great attention. Bangert said he was surprised to find that much of the USD community did not know the gravity of the situation in Baja California Sur.
“What’s most shocking is that many students aren’t aware there is a hurricane that destroyed the southern Baja peninsula,” Bangert said. “The infrastructure is completely destroyed. My host family is fortunate enough to own a yacht, which they have turned into a shelter for friends and family. But the majority of the population is not so lucky. It scares me to think that La Paz, my second home, is now unrecognizable and in extreme distress.”
Approximately 3,000 military, police and rescue personnel have been deployed by the Mexican government to the Cabo municipalities to aid in the rebuilding process, and to help the estimated 30,000 people that are still stranded or displaced in shelters. Due to structural damage caused by the storm, the Cabo San Lucas, Cabo San Jose and La Paz airports have been closed for several days. Mexican officials have been forced to airlift stranded people out of the destruction zone.
Junior Claudio Trespalacios, who is a resident of Mexico City, reflected on how this disaster has affected the whole country.
“It’s really saddening that a storm hit when the country should be celebrating [Mexico’s Independence Day],” Trespalacios said. “With so many people normally traveling to the beaches around Cabo, tourism will definitely be affected, putting a strain on all of Mexico’s economy.”
Although most of the immediate danger subsided once the storm passed, according to NBC News, flooding will continue to pose a threat. Baja California Sur received an estimated 11 inches of rain per hour during the harshest part of the storm. The National Hurricane Center said the area was not well adapted to receive the intense rainfall.
According to The Weather Channel, the average total rainfall for these areas is approximately 13 inches per year, making this amount of water at one time a rare event.
Sophomore Gabby Koepenick, whose family has a summer home in Cabo, has been awaiting news of how her property, and the surrounding areas, have been damaged.
“I am anxious to see the lasting effects the storm will have on the town,” Koepenick said. “Hopefully they are able to get everything back in shape, but from seeing pictures, that process may take a while.”
According to the New York Daily News, the destruction has also caused widespread looting in the town.
While some of the USD community that have loved ones or property in the area are already feeling the effects of the storm, it is possible that even more students will feel the storm’s power in the coming weeks.
The National Weather Service has predicted widespread flooding throughout much of the Southwest, as the last of the storm sweeps through the southern United States. According to USA Today, large portions of Texas are now flooded due to rains from Hurricane Odile. Additionally, according to CBS, parts of Arizona and New Mexico have also been experiencing floods from the last leg of the hurricane.
Senior Kaitlyn Wolters said it was strange to see something so dangerous happening in our neighboring country.
“It is scary when you realize how close to home the hurricane came,” Wolters said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the civilians and the thousands of tourists that were caught in the worst part of the storm.”
As the full extent of the damage continues to be assessed, the Meteorological Service in Mexico is urging the population to take precautions and to remain alert during the storm.
According to the Houston Chronicle the rebuilding process is already underway in Cabo.
Mexico’s President, Enrique Peña Nieto, spoke earlier this week to address the progress that has been made since the storm hit.
The president said that Mexico’s federal government was working with state authorities on relief efforts in the areas hit by Hurricane Odile. Those relief efforts include restoring water and electricity to the region.
Efforts toward a quick rebuilding process is good news for USD students who have plans to visit Cabo or La Paz anytime soon, and for the numerous locals who have been drastically affected by the devastating hurricane.