CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Blanca was downgraded to a tropical storm Sunday as it neared the Baja California Peninsula, where residents boarded up home and storefront windows in preparation for the heavy rains and high winds that were forecast to lash a wide area including the resorts of Los Cabos.
After building into a powerful Category 4 hurricane on Saturday, Blanca quickly lost strength the following day. It was expected to pass to the west of the peninsula's southern tip, moving near or along its southwestern coastline at night and on Monday.
But with memories still fresh from Hurricane Odile, which battered ramshackle homes, stores and luxury hotels when it made a direct hit on Los Cabos as a Category 3 storm in September, authorities put thousands of troops on alert and issued maritime warnings.
NASA satellite hurricane photos from space
Blanca a tropical storm as it nears Mexico's Baja California
AT SEA - OCTOBER 28: In this handout satellite image provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Sandy, pictured at 00:15 UTC, churns off the east coast on October 28, 2012 in the Atlantic Ocean. Sandy which has already claimed over 50 lives in the Caribbean is predicted to bring heavy winds and floodwaters to the mid-atlantic region. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - SEPTEMBER 11: In this handout satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), hurricane Humberto (R) forms as a category one on September 11, 2013 in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean. Humberto is the first hurricane of the 2013 season. (Photo by NOAA/NASA GOES Project via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 3: In this handout provided by the NASA, Hurricane Arthur is seen from the International Space Staion as it moves up the U.S. East Coast on July 3, 2014. According to reports, Arthur will continue to strengthen and will reach a category two in strength prior to landfall as early as the evening on July 3. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
CARIBBEAN SEA - AUGUST 24: In this handout MODIS satellite image provided by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Hurricane Irene (top center) churns over the Bahamas on August 24, 2011 in the Caribbean Sea. Irene, now a Category 3 storm with winds of 120 miles per hour, is projected to possibly clip the Outer Banks region of North Carolina before moving up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - SEPTEMBER 10: In this handout image provided by NASA, Hurricane Ike is seen on September 10, 2008 from aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The center of the hurricane was near 23.8 degrees north latitude and 85.3 degrees west longitude, moving 300 degrees at 7 nautical miles per hour. The sustained winds were 80 nautical miles per hour with gusts to 100 nautical miles per hour and forecast to intensify, according to NASA. The eye of the hurricane is expected to make landfall at Galveston Island early Saturday (13 September 2008) morning. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
Archive: South Pacific Storm (NASA, Skylab, 12/02/73)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 17: This photo of Hurricane Frances was taken by NASA ISS Science Officer and Flight Engineer Mike Fincke aboard the International Space Station as he flew 230 miles above the storm at about 10 am EDT Friday, 27 August 2004. At the time, Frances was about 820 miles east of the Lesser Antilles in the Atlantic Ocean, moving west-northwest at 10 miles an hour, with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles an hour. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Hurricane Dean photographed from Shuttle Endeavour [1680x1050]
Hurricane Danielle (NASA, International Space Station Science, 08/27/10) [Explored]
Locals nailed down roofs and dragged food stands in from the beach in Cabo San Lucas, even as some tourists strolled the sand taking pictures of the cloudy skies and rising surf. Gusty winds whipped the tops of palm trees.
James Kicklighter, a Los Angeles film writer and director vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, said the wind was rattling windows and doors at his hotel, which took safety precautions including closing the beach and pools, taking down light fixtures and artworks, and suspending alcohol and restaurant service.
Kicklighter said hotel workers advised him to close the curtains in his room and move the dresser to brace the glass doors to the patio.
"I'm not feeling very nervous at this point with the constant downgrades, but I have a healthy respect for hurricanes growing up with family in Florida," he said via email. "People here are excited to ride it out, taking a lot of selfies."
Mexico's National Water Commission warned of strong winds, lightning, up to 20-foot (6-meter) surf and "extraordinary rainfall," with possible localized accumulations of 10 inches (250 millimeters) or more in Baja California Sur state, which is home to Los Cabos.
Los Cabos Civil Protection director Wenceslao Pettit said conditions were calm and the area had begun to experience light rains associated with Blanca. He added that no evacuations were being carried out, although nine emergency shelters had been readied, and the port was closed to small watercraft.
Blanca's maximum sustained winds decreased Sunday evening to 70 mph (110 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The storm's center was about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Cabo San Lucas and moving north-northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
A tropical storm warning was in effect from Loreto to Punta Abreojos, including Cabo San Lucas. A hurricane watch for parts of the peninsula was discontinued.
Some high-end hotels in Los Cabos that suffered severe damage from Odile have still not reopened as they continue to undergo repairs and remodeling.