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Hurricane Jimena could deliver powerful punch to Baja California

by Tim Linden | August 31, 2009
On Monday afternoon, Aug. 31, Mexican officials upgraded Hurricane Jimena to a category 4 storm, and some were predicting that it would become a category 5 storm before it reaches land sometime Tuesday, Sept. 1 or Wednesday, Sept. 2.

Because of much-below-standard housing and buildings in rural Baja California, experts are predicting that Hurricane Jimena will deliver a devastating blow to the underprivileged who live in shantytown and makeshift housing near the resort communities that dot the southern Baja California peninsula.

It is not known how much impact the storm will have on some of the better- built resort towns such as Cabo San Lucas and the extensive agricultural fields that are located up and down the two Mexican states that make up Baja California.

Jim Cathey, general manager of Del Campo Supreme Inc. in Nogales, AZ, told the Produce News Tuesday morning, Sept. 1, that "there will be an impact, but it's too early to tell how big of an impact or where it will be."

The meandering nature of hurricanes in general makes it difficult to predict where exactly they will land. If Hurricane Jimena hits land and then veers north and west, its impact would be much less than if it moves over land and picks up more steam from the Sea of California (formerly called the Sea of Cortez), which is east of Baja California, in between that peninsula and mainland Mexico.

"We will have a much better idea tomorrow morning [Wednesday, Sept. 2] after it comes ashore and shows which direction it's going to take," said Mr. Cathey.

It is fairly obvious that a lot of rain will be dumped on Baja California and even up into Yuma, AZ, and much of the state, he noted. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but if the rains are accompanied by high winds, much damage could occur. Many tomatoes and other vegetable crops are grown in Baja in shadehouse structures that not designed to withstand 100 mph winds.

Danny Uribe, sales manager of Pinos Pproduce Inc. in San Diego, said that the current trajectory of the hurricane leaves little doubt that there will be damage to some agricultural fields, as there is commercial agriculture throughout Baja California. But he said that it will be at least Friday before an accurate assessment can be made regarding which areas were hit and how badly they were hurt.