Jimena Weakens to Category Three Hurricane, Baja Braces for Impact

September 1, 2009
(6:14 p.m. EDT) -- Hurricane Jimena has weakened to a Category Three hurricane as it nears Mexico. The center of the storm is currently located 110 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas and about 210 miles south-southeast of Cabo San Lazaro.

A hurricane warning is in effect on the Baja California Peninsula from its southern tip northward to Punta Abreojos and Mulege. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are likely in this region within 24 hours.

A hurricane watch is in effect from the aforementioned destinations north to Bahia San Juan Bautista and Punta Eugenia, meaning that hurricane conditions are likely within 36 hours. An extended tropical storm watch is in effect on the west coast of mainland Mexico from Altata to Bahia Kino.

According to the 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Jimena's maximum sustained winds have decreased again to almost 125 miles per hour, downgrading the storm to a Category Three hurricane. The storm is expected to weaken during the next 24 to 48 hours. However, Jimena may still be a major hurricane when it makes landfall.

Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes

Carnival has completely altered Carnival Splendor's Mexican Riviera itinerary. The ship is scheduled to 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 -- had a sea day Monday and will visit Catalina on Tuesday and Ensenada on Wednesday. This itinerary replaces the previous 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 departed Long Beach on Monday, 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 two days 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 north-northwest, and is expected to continue in this direction for the next few days. The center of the storm will be near or over the southern portion of the Baja California peninsula later tonight and Wednesday and near or over the center of the peninsula by Wednesday night or Thursday. According to the NHC's three-day forecast, the eye of the storm will not pass over Cabo San Lucas, but the resort area is already experiencing heavy winds and rain, and the San Jose International Airport closed at noon local time today.

Jimena is expected to 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, coastal flooding, flash floods and mudslides.

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