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Residents, tourists wait in shelters as powerful Hurricane Odile makes landfall in Mexico

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CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico — Residents and tourists hunkered down in shelters and hotel conference rooms overnight as a powerful and sprawling Hurricane Odile made landfall on the southern Baja California peninsula.

The area is home to gleaming megaresorts, tiny fishing communities and low-lying neighborhoods of flimsy homes. Forecasters predicted a dangerous storm surge with large waves as well as drenching rains capable of causing landslides and flash floods.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said satellite imagery indicates Odile's center made landfall Sunday night at about 9:45 p.m. PDT near Cabo San Lucas. It said at landfall, Odile had estimated intensity of 125 mph (205 kph), and an automated station near Cabo San Lucas reported a sustained wind of 89 mph (144 kph) with a gust to 116 mph (187 kph). The storm was moving north-northwest at 17 mph (28 kph).

By early Monday, the storm's maximum sustained winds were near 115 mph (185 kph) as it moved over the peninsula. It was centered about 140 miles (230 kilometers) east-southeast of Cabo San Lazaro.

As howling winds whipped palm trees amid pelting rain outside, people bedded down and used magazines to fan themselves in crowded, stuffy safe rooms. Some did crossword puzzles or listened to iPhones. In one hotel near San Jose del Cabo, power went out not long after nightfall and a generator was keeping minimal lights on.

Denise Mellor, a traveler from Orange County, California, was frustrated about a lack of information about the storm and said she was learning more from her daughter back home than from hotel workers.

"It's a little bit (unsettling) that we don't have a choice but to sit in here and hope for the best," Mellor said. "So that makes me a little bit scared."

Mexican authorities evacuated coastal areas and readied shelters for up to 30,000 people.

"We are going to be hit, do not risk your life," warned Marcos Covarrubias, governor of Baja California Sur.

PHOTO: People take photos of the sea in Los Cabos, Mexico, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Hurricane Odile grew into a major storm Sunday and took aim at the resort area of Los Cabos, prompting Mexican authorities to evacuate vulnerable coastal areas and prepare shelters for up to 30,000 people. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
People take photos of the sea in Los Cabos, Mexico, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Hurricane Odile grew into a major storm Sunday and took aim at the resort area of Los Cabos, prompting Mexican authorities to evacuate vulnerable coastal areas and prepare shelters for up to 30,000 people. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

After reaching Category 4 strength on Sunday, Odile weakened some to Category 3 but was still a major storm. The U.S. hurricane center warned of possible coastal flooding and rainfall of 5 to 10 inches, with isolated amounts up to 15 inches.

On Sunday, police with megaphones walked through vulnerable areas in Cabo San Lucas urging people to evacuate.

"I'm leaving. It's very dangerous here," said Felipa Flores, clutching a plastic bag with a few belongings as she took her two small children from her neighborhood of El Caribe to a storm shelter. "Later on we're going to be cut off and my house of wood and laminated cardboard won't stand up to much."

At least 22 airline flights were canceled. Some tourists camped out at the Los Cabos international airport hoping to get out before the storm, but the facility shut down all air operations late in the afternoon.

Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator for Mexico's civil protection agency, said 164 shelters had been prepared for as many as 30,000 people in Baja California Sur.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Punta Abreojos to Loreto. Mexican authorities declared a maximum alert for areas in or near Odile's path, and ports in Baja California were ordered closed.

Meanwhile in the central Atlantic, Hurricane Edouard strengthened to a Category 2 storm early Monday with maximum sustained winds near 105 mph (165 kph), although it was forecast to remain far out at sea and pose no threat to land.

The U.S. hurricane center said Edouard's center was 720 miles (1,160 kilometers) east-southeast of Bermuda and was moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).


Associated Press writer Maria Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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PHOTO: Workers put plastic shields on windows at resort as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Odile in Los Cabos, Mexico, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Hurricane Odile turned into a Category 4 hurricane and it's expected to make a close brush with the southern portion of Mexico's Baja California peninsula Sunday evening. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
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