Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Close Encounter with Paul - and a Celebration for the Environment

Somebody once said “Be careful what you wish for” and this week we almost had a visitor to Loreto that would have likely proved the truth in that saying, because for some time I have secretly wanted to be here in the Baja during an “extreme weather event”.

Hurricane Paul had been brewing in the Eastern Pacific since last weekend and made landfall Tuesday on the west coast of the peninsula about halfway between Loreto and Cabo San Lucas as a Category 1 storm.  Here in Loreto we had steady rain all day Monday, through the night, and most of the day Tuesday, with gusting winds and “bands” of heavier rain increasing in frequency through the morning, peaking between noon and around 3:00 pm when apparently Paul veered west back into the Pacific and the storm intensity gradually decreased through the rest of the afternoon and early evening.

Because this storm was approaching from the west, there was significantly more rainfall further west from where we are located here on the east coast of the peninsula, and a lot of that rain fell in the Sierra de la Gigante mountain range. The runoff from this rain collected in the arroyos that channeled it to the Sea of Cortez here on the coast and so we experienced a much more serious flooding impact than would have been the case normally from the approximately 4 inches of rain that fell here locally. 

This accumulated runoff caused some washouts and bridge damage in a number of places on the highway north and south of here and the road to town was under water in several places Tuesday afternoon.  In Loreto itself, the usually dry arroyo that splits the town and borders the location of the Sunday Market, was turned into a thunderous flood that almost crested the levies protecting the town.  (Check out this brief video clip taken at the height of the storm that appeared on youtube the next day!)

While here in Loreto Bay we were not affected so dramatically, flooded streets and a number of trees and large shrubs blown over during the storm, although I think most of these had been planted recently and had not yet established their roots.  However, many homes in the development had varying amounts of water “incursions”, due in most cases I expect, to the fact that the exterior of the homes have become almost saturated from the record making accumulation of rain this Fall.  

In my home I had several pots and pans strategically placed to catch some steady drips and there were a few damp spots on walls and ceilings – nothing serious thankfully, but unusual all the same, given that it has been almost 3 years since we have had significant amounts of rainfall here. 

All’s well that ends well and we’ll chalk up Paul to a near miss – but I now have a better appreciation of the potential impact of this class of storm.  Given the earlier projections that Paul would be at his closest approach to Loreto around 8:00 pm, and the volumes of wind and rain that we were experiencing mid-afternoon, it is sobering to consider what conditions would have been like if things had got progressively worse over another 4 or 5 hours with considerably more rain and stronger winds!

As it was, after a day or so to allow the accumulated water to drain and evaporate, things around here quickly returned to seasonal normal (i.e. perfect!) but the long term legacy of Paul will be months of repair and reconstruction on the bridges and roadways that were damaged during the storm.  I have written before about the major infrastructure improvements that have been undertaken on the Highway connecting Tijuana and Los Cabos over the past 4 or 5 years, mainly the completion of many new bridges over the arroyos that channel flood waters during these infrequent major storms.  But the events this week are a reminder of how quickly years of work and millions of pesos can be wiped out by a sudden deluge of water.  The good news is the road was reopened with detours around the damaged spots within a day or two and the north/south traffic flow was getting back to normal.

At the end of this week there was a special event held at La Mission Hotel in town, the Fifth Anniversary fundraising dinner for Eco-Alianza de Loreto, a local environmental advocacy group,   to support Environmental Education programs for Loreto youth.  This was quite a gala affair, by Loreto standards, tickets for the evening (which included a donation for the group) sold out in advance and there was an extensive silent auction, raffle tickets for a return trip for two between LAX and Loreto courtesy of Alaska Airlines and the evening concluded with a live auction of some spectacular experiences contributed by local supporters of this active organization.

I joined several other Homeowners and we headed into town to the beautiful La Mision property located on the Malecon waterfront in Loreto.  The Malecon has been undergoing a major upgrade including utilities and paving this year and while this work is still ongoing along most of length of the street, fortunately it has been completed in front of the Hotel improving access for the large crowd that had already arrived before we got there (after finding the last parking spot nearby, due to all the construction).

The event was held on the mezzanine level where the Dining Room and Lounge form a “horseshoe” around the atrium of the main floor lobby.  Large dining tables filled the regular restaurant area and Lounge and two adjoining balcony patios where there was outdoor seating on what was a perfect calm and balmy evening, like so many we enjoy here during the “winter” season.

This entire mezzanine area was crowded with what must have been a couple of hundred Guests mingling and socializing over drinks for a couple of hours before the dinner, many of whom had just recently returned from spending the summer in the north and were catching up with their friends and acquaintances.  I was impressed with the extent and quality of the many silent auction items, most of which attracted multiple bids during the course of the evening.  There were arts and crafts, jewelry, décor items, among many other unique and interesting items.

When the meal was served, the restaurant staff of the Hotel did an impressive job of handling this capacity crowd and the Caesar salad, followed by chicken cordon blue with creamy mashed potatoes and garnish of freshly sautéed vegetables and desert was well presented and tasted delicious.  After the meal there was a lively auction of several exceptional “prizes” including an outing on a 52’ yacht, an air tour of the area surrounding Loreto in a private plane, and a two night get-away for up to 6 couples at a private oceanfront mansion that was a Spanish Marquesa´s former residence, amongst other once in a lifetime experiences.

I encourage you to learn more about the extensive programs undertaken by Eco-Alianza, their very professional website can be found at: and be sure to check out the impressive photo gallery you will find there, along with detailed information about the work they do in and around Loreto, protecting the pristine and beautiful surroundings that have lured so many of us here!  And if you were unable to support these good works by attending the Fifth Anniversary Gala, you can always make your contribution on line through the website.

So this week I saw the awesome potential power of nature with the near-miss of Hurricane Paul and how our environment can be so impacted over a brief 48 hour period.  And then I participated in an impressive fundraising celebration that our community contributed generously to, supporting the good works of one of the most important local organizations dedicated to preserving and protecting that same environment – a fitting conclusion to a memorable week, when you are “Living Loreto”.