Hurricanes Felix, Henriette make landfall on same day

People passed partially destroyed homes Tuesday after Hurricane Felix passed in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. (GERMAN MIRANDA ~ Associated Press)

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- Felix walloped Central America's remote Miskito coastline and Henriette slammed into resorts on the tip of Baja California as a record-setting hurricane season got even wilder Tuesday with twin storms making landfall on the same day.

While weakening rapidly, Felix's rains posed a danger to inland villages lying in flood-prone mountain valleys and to urban shantytowns susceptible to mudslides.

Felix roared ashore before dawn as a Category 5 storm along Nicaragua's remote northeast corner -- an isolated, swampy jungle where people get around mainly by canoe.

The storm's 160 mph winds slammed the city of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, peeling roofs off shelters and a police station, knocking down electric poles and destroying or damaging some 5,000 homes, according to Lt. Col. Samuel Perez, Nicaragua's deputy head of civil defense.

Perez said at least three people died: a man drowned when his boat capsized, a woman was killed when a tree fell on her house and a baby died after the storm made it impossible for her to receive medical attention.

Nicaragua's government declared the northern Caribbean region a disaster area and warned that torrential rain brought by Felix could cause rivers to jump their banks.

Felix weakened steadily throughout the day and was downgraded to a tropical storm, with winds of 60 mph, shortly after nightfall. Still, forecasters worried that the tempest would do great damage inland over Honduras and Guatemala. Up to 25 inches of rain was expected to drench the mountain capitals of Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City, where shantytowns cling precariously to hillsides.

"The major concern now shifts to the threat of torrential rains over the mountains of Central America," said senior hurricane specialist Richard Pasch at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

In the Pacific, Henriette's top winds increased to 85 mph and it made landfall just after 2 p.m. on the southern tip of Baja, a resort area popular with Hollywood stars and sports fishermen.

Few tourists or residents had expected much trouble, but they awoke Tuesday to dangerous winds, closed airports and forecasts of a direct hit.

"I've been hearing it from the wife, coming to Cabo during the hurricane season," said Derek Dunlap, a 45-year-old engineer from San Francisco. "I was going to roll the dice, and well, here we go."

Fifteen-foot waves chewed away beaches, crashed against seawalls at beachfront hotels and bashed catamarans against their moorings.

Comments