(6:14 p.m. EDT) -- Hurricane Jimena, a dangerous Category Four hurricane, is very close to becoming a Category Five hurricane. The center of the storm is currently located 305 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the southern portion of the Baja California Peninsula from Bahia Magalena and San Evaristo southward. This warning means that hurricane conditions are likely within 24 hours. A hurricane watch is in effect from the aforementioned destinations north to Punta Abreojos and Mulege, meaning that hurricane conditions are likely in this region within 36 hours.
According to the 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Jimena's maximum sustained winds have increased to almost 155 miles per hour -- just shy of Category Five status. The storm may experience some fluctuations in strength over the next few days, but will likely still be a major hurricane when it makes landfall in Mexico tomorrow.
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Carnival has completely altered Carnival Splendor's Mexican Riviera itinerary. The ship will now call in Catalina Island on Monday, Ensenada Tuesday, two sea days Wednesday and Thursday, Cabo San Lucas on Friday, and Ensenada again on Saturday.
Carnival Elation -- which departed from San Diego on Saturday -- will be at sea Monday and visit Catalina on Tuesday and Ensenada on Wednesday. This new itinerary replaces the existing schedule of consecutive port calls in Cabo San Lucas on Monday and Tuesday.
Carnival Paradise will also sail a revised itinerary, which is simply a rearrangement of ports. The ship departs Long Beach today, will spend Tuesday at sea, and then will call in Catalina on Wednesday and Ensenada on Thursday before returning to Long Beach on Friday.
Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas will reverse the order of its ports of call to avoid the hurricane. The ship departed Los Angeles on Sunday and will spend today and tomorrow at sea, visit Puerto Vallarta on Wednesday, Mazatlan on Thursday, and Cabo San Lucas on Friday. Saturday will be a sea day with a return to Los Angeles on Sunday. However, this new itinerary may need to be readjusted if Hurricane Jimena does significant damage to any of the ports.
Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports
Hurricane Jimena is moving toward the northwest, and is expected to turn toward the north-northwest within the next day or two with an increase in forward speed. The center of the storm will reach the southern portion of the Baja California peninsula on Tuesday. According to the NHC, Jimena will drop 5 to 15 inches of rain across Baja California and Western Mexico during the next two days. The peninsula will likely experience large and dangerous battering waves and coastal flooding.
All four Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships sailing Mexico cruises in the Pacific have altered their itineraries to avoid the storm.
Stay tuned for further updates.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
Hurricane Jimena Nears Category Five Status, Four Ships Alter Itineraries
August 31, 2009