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Baja's 'strongest ever' hurricane set to make landfall tonight

Mexican authorities are scrambling to get many of the peninsula's residents to evacuate as the nearly Category 5 storm approaches.

By Staff writer / September 1, 2009

Men board up a storefront as hurricane Jimena approaches San Jose del Cabo, Mexico on Monday.

Guillermo Aria/AP

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Hurricane Jimena, almost a Category 5 storm, continues to threaten Mexican resort towns and fishing villages on the Baja California peninsula.

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"This may be the strongest hurricane ever to hit the region," said José Gajón, the director of civil protection for the state of Baja California Sur.

Winds on Monday night neared 155 mph, which puts it just shy of a devastating Category 5 storm. Even if it weakens before hitting land (expected Tuesday evening) forecasters say it will strike as a major hurricane.

Mexican authorities focused on evacuation throughout Monday, urging up to 10,000 people to evacuate. Many refused, but the government said it would begin forced evacuations. "We are going to start by inviting people to leave... the moment will come when we will have to make it obligatory," Garibaldo Romero, the interior secretary for the municipal government, said.

The US National Hurricane Center warned that the storm surge, and consequent battering waves, could "produce significant coastal flooding along the Baja California peninsula."

The US State Department issued a travel alert on Monday.

"US citizens located in areas likely to be impacted by Hurricane Jimena and who do not have access to adequate and safe shelter should consider departing while commercial flights are still available," it warned.

A local hotel association told the Associated Press that about 7,000 tourists were still in the resort town of Los Cabos. A tax conference, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was supposed to have convened in Los Cabos but was moved to Mexico City for talks Tuesday and Wednesday. Delegates from some 70 countries had already begun to arrive in the resort town.

Hurricane Jimena is the second hurricane of the season in the eastern Pacific to threaten Mexico.

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