Cabo San Lucas is a city on the ascent. Fringed to its south by dramatic cliffs, white sands, and a slice of sparkling Pacific that teems with ocean life, its picturesque setting and subtropical climate have become a major draw for tourists. By day, holidaymakers in search of relaxation enjoy fishing, horse riding and lazing beneath parasols. Those in want of excitement can be found swimming, surfing and flyboarding on the ocean’s surface, or delving below it with snorkels or scuba gear to take the world renowned menagerie of fish, dolphins, whales, and turtles that inhabit the local waters. Come sundown, the city’s tranquil days give way to one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in Baja California.
With its steady increase in visitor numbers and the subsequent development of the local tourist industry, the city has now claimed a spot among the top five tourist destinations in Mexico. But in recent years fears have grown about the potential danger posed to the city by the Baja California hurricane season. This article provides a look at Cabo San Lucas hurricane history and a general insight into hurricanes in Cabo San Lucas.
Cabo San Lucas Hurricane History: Hurricane Odile
Although having raged only three years ago back in September 2014, Hurricane Odile casts a long shadow over Cabo San Lucas hurricane history. It remains tied at the top spot for the most powerful recorded hurricane ever to have made landfall on the Baja California peninsula. At the peak of its intensity, Odile measured as a category 4 hurricane. As Odile moved over Cabo San Lucas, the city’s weather station recorded winds of 90 mph (140 km/h) with gusts of 117 mph (188 km/h).
The destruction Odile wrought was some of the worst in Baja California hurricane history. The hurricane’s strength and sudden emergence resulted in the canceling of all flights in and out of Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Los Cabos, and Loreto airports. 26,000 tourists were consequently left stranded on the Baja peninsula. In Cabo San Lucas’s state—Baja California Sur—alone, 239,000 people were left without electricity. At the time that equated to 92% of the state’s population. The supply of fresh drinking water was cut throughout the entire state. A third of the area’s crops were devastated. 1,800 homes were destroyed and a further 8,200 were damaged. Almost all hotels in the south of the Baja peninsula sustained some level of damage. Odile claimed the lives of five people on the Baja peninsula and the total cost of the damage was estimated to be MXN$16.6 billion (US$1.25 billion).
Baja California Hurricane Season
The Baja Peninsula lies on the periphery of the east Pacific hurricane track. While the East Pacific hurricane season begins on May 15th and runs through to November 30th, no recorded hurricanes have ever made landfall on the Baja California Peninsula during May, November, or during any month that falls outside of the Baja California hurricane season.
The majority of hurricanes that occur in the Eastern Pacific Basin expend their hurricane force strength out at sea. Eastern Pacific hurricanes tend to be smaller and slower moving than their Atlantic and Western Pacific cousins, and typically, the hurricane force storm conditions of a Baja California hurricane only extend 15-20 miles from its eye. It is not uncommon that while a hurricane is lashing one area of the peninsula, you will encounter little more than a breeze and a touch of light rain afflicting areas as little as 50 miles away.
An average of 16 storms pass over the Baja peninsula during the Baja California hurricane season, and of those 16, typically only 3-4 rage with enough strength to achieve hurricane classification. It is worth noting that, aside from Odile, only two other major hurricanes, 1982’s hurricane Paul and 1989’s hurricane Kiko, have made landfall on the Baja California peninsula since 1949.
A Recent History of Hurricanes in Cabo San Lucas and the Surrounding Area
Hurricane Juliette, September 2001
A powerful hurricane that that forced the closure of the Cabo San Lucas port from September 26th until October 2nd. Juliette stalled off the Baja California Sur where it unleashed a deluge of heavy rainfall. The rain caused widespread flooding and triggered mudslides across the region.
Hurricane John, August 2006
Caused flooding across Los Cabos, which resulted in the closing of La Paz airport and a number of roads. Hurricane John also uprooted trees, cut power to the city of La Paz, destroyed the homes of 200 families, and cut off Internet connection in Cabo San Lucas.
Hurricane Odile, September 2014
One of the most destructive hurricanes in Cabo San Lucas hurricane history.
Vacationing During Baja California Hurricane Season
The Baja California hurricane season is wet, hot, generally overcast, muggy, and, as the name suggests, carries the risk of hurricanes. As a result, the Baja California hurricane season is the quietest time of year on Cabo San Lucas’s tourist calendar. There are, however, advantages to visiting the city during the season. The city’s decreased tourist appeal during the season comparative to the rest of the year gives rise to an abundance of wide ranging discounts, which even extend to rooms at the city’s most exclusive hotels. Mexico celebrates its independence day on September 16th, by which time most of the season’s hurricanes have passed. This is a great time to enjoy local Independence Day celebrations without rubbing shoulders with crowds of other tourists.
Fortunately, hurricanes of Odile’s ferocity are rare in Cabo San Lucas. That is not to say that the Baja California hurricane season infrequently produces hurricanes with the potential for danger and destruction, but the fears that linger in Odile’s wake are likely to dissipate long before a hurricane of Odile’s magnitude arrives to restore them. There are advantages to visiting Cabo San Lucas during hurricane season, but make sure you remain aware of the risks when booking your vacation.
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