As Hurricane Hilary, a Category 4 storm, headed toward the Baja California Peninsula and the Southwestern United States on Friday, sandbags were piling up on beaches in Los Cabos in Mexico and meteorologists forecast the possibility of heavy rain in California as soon as Saturday. On Friday morning, Southern California was placed under its first ever tropical storm watch.
While it’s unclear where Hilary will make landfall, this severe weather may disrupt travel and impact flights this weekend, particularly through Los Cabos International Airport in San José del Cabo, Mexico. Here’s what travelers need to know.
Where is the storm headed?
On Friday afternoon, Hurricane Hilary was moving north toward the Mexican peninsula with sustained winds of up to 145 miles per hour. The storm is expected to weaken in the coming days as it nears the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula on Saturday, and Southern California by Sunday.
Currently, there is a hurricane watch in effect for most of the northern half of the Baja California Peninsula.
Forecasters anticipate there could be up to 10 inches of rain through Sunday evening across the peninsula. Mexico’s national meteorological service said there could also be intense winds and hail, as well as possible landslides and flooding in low-lying areas. In the United States, the National Weather Service has issued flood watches for Los Angeles and Ventura Counties in effect from Sunday afternoon through Monday evening.
What are the airlines doing?
Major carriers are waiving change fees for flights scheduled through this weekend to or from Los Cabos Airport, with varying restrictions. Changes on American Airlines must be booked by Aug. 20 and completed within a year. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are waiving fare differences for flights on or before Aug. 23. And customers flying on Southwest Airlines can rebook to fly within 14 days of their original date of travel.
JetBlue Airways is offering rebooking for travelers with flights through Aug. 22. Alaska Airlines’s policy to allow no-fee flight changes and cancellations also applies to Loreto Airport, on the east coast of Baja California Sur.
In the United States, Roland Nuñez, a National Weather Service aviation meteorologist, said in a video posted on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, that he anticipated airports in Southern California will have “issues with heavy rain” that could trigger some air traffic “disturbances” on Sunday and into early next week.
Air travelers should monitor their flight status using their airline’s website or app. Flightaware.com, a flight-tracking service, also provides timely insight into delays and cancellations at domestic and international airports.
What precautions are local hotels taking?
Lilzi Orci, president of the Los Cabos Hotel Association, said that each of the association’s 93 hotels had an “action plan” to keep visitors safe, including a “certified place” to serve as a temporary refuge for guests. She said that hotels are preparing for the storm by taking steps such as clearing lawns of debris, locking down garden furniture and monitoring power regulators.
“We are always in communication with the San José del Cabo International Airport so we can know the status of the flights and to be able to inform the guests. In this way we also prevent them from going outside if their flight is canceled,” she said.
Hilton is waiving cancellation penalties through Aug. 23 at its properties in Baja California Sur, including the Beach and Golf Resort in Los Cabos and the Waldorf Astoria Pedregal, a hotel spokesperson said.
Marriott International is also waiving cancellation fees for guests who have stays booked at its properties “in the path of Hurricane Hilary,” said Kerstin Sachl, a spokeswoman for the hotel brand.
What about the beaches?
Ms. Orci said that Mexican authorities had already closed the ports and beaches in Los Cabos.
Over the next few days, the coast of southwestern Mexico and the Baja California Peninsula could see large swells “likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” according to an advisory from the National Weather Service in the United States.
A storm surge, accompanied by “destructive waves,” will likely cause coastal flooding along the western Baja California Peninsula, the Weather Service said. On the Baja California Sur coast, these waves could rise to to 22 feet, Mexico’s meteorological service said.
Are any cruise ships sailing?
Two Carnival cruise ships, the Radiance and the Panorama, are scheduled to depart in separate sailings from Long Beach, Calif., to Mexico on Friday and Saturday. The cruise line said that while there are currently no changes to the itineraries, the company’s fleet operations center is monitoring the hurricane and its potential impact.
“We are continuing to monitor the storm and factor in guidance from the National Hurricane Center, U.S. Coast Guard and the local port authorities to provide timely updates to our guests as more information becomes available,” Carnival said in a statement. “Based on the current forecast, it may be necessary to make changes to the itineraries.”
Ceylan Yeginsu and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega contributed reporting.
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