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Storm Bypasses Southern Tip of Baja California

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MIGRINO, MEXICO (AP) — After battering tourist towns at the tipof Baja California, Hurricane Nora swirled today toward landfallalong the central peninsula - and an eventual soaking of America'sSouthwest.

Mexican authorities declared a hurricane watch for a 350-mileswath of Baja and a coastal flood warning for much of the northernmainland.

The hurricane, well at sea, veered past Cabo San Lucas at thebase of the peninsula early today, but the damage from the storm'souter squalls boded badly for those in its path.

The U.S. Hurricane Center warned that the storm, which wouldprobably be weakened by crossing the peninsula, likely would dumpheavy rains later in the week on the southwestern United States.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Nora's eye was about 325 miles south of PuntaEugenia, a Pacific coast point near the center of the Bajapeninsula, the Hurricane Center said.

Moving north-northwest at 13 mph with sustained winds of 85 mph,it was expected to veer more to the north and onto land.Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 85 miles from the eye,and tropical storm-force winds outward up to 200 miles.

On Tuesday, earthmovers plowed the streets of Cabo San Lucas,removing the mud that the storm had driven through the touristresort in wide rivers, and both roads leading north were washedout.

Near the hamlet of Migrino, 20 miles north of Cabo San Lucas onthe Pacific coast, a muddy river covered 200 yards of road.

Dozens of people gathered to watch tractors and a militaryHumvee try to pull out the trucks and cars that had attempted - andfailed - to make it across.

A few families waded across the waist-deep floodwaters, but notmany motorists were willing to give it a shot.

Miguel Angel Dominguez, 23, had been driving his gasoline tankertruck toward La Paz on Monday morning when the squall hit. He wasstill there Tuesday afternoon, sitting on a spare tire and waiting.

``I'll wait until tomorrow if I have to,'' he said. ``I have toget through.''

Mitch Christensen a 36-year-old surfer from Dana Point, Calif.,was driving up from Cabo San Lucas ``to check out the waves'' atTodos Santos, a popular surfing area further north. But there wasno way his rented Volkswagen Beetle was going to make it.

The storm had ruined his surfing plans since his arrival Sundaynight, he said. ``It was just too maxed out,'' he said of thewaves. ``It was out of control.''

Then again, in disaster he also saw possibility. ``I'll be inthe water tomorrow,'' he said. ``I've surfed hurricane surf before.It's kind of what I live for. It's a major rush.''

Martin Higuera, 31, was driving to La Paz to make sure elderlyrelatives had made it through the storm. But he too was stopped bythe river. So he sat on a hillside with his brother and his11-month-old daughter, Janette, and waited with a six-pack of beer.

``They say they're going to build a bridge here. When, I don'tknow,'' he said, giving Janette a swig of beer. She drank dutifullyand stared off into space.

By NIKO PRICE,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.