Hurricane Odile

We were just there...and now this coastline is thrashed.

We were just there in April…and now this coastline is thrashed.

A place I love, the land and sea that shaped my twenties, is now a disaster area. Hurricane Odile passed through Los Cabos and traveled up the Baja Peninsula this week, crushing homes, infrastructure, an entire industry and human spirit as it went. It hasn’t been widely reported in the States but, today, some of my friends are waiting in mile-long lines for food, water or an airlift to anywhere else. Others are staying to pick up the pieces, sticking it out despite the devastation, the heat, the lack of power/cell service and the clear-and-present threat of looters, who are going from home to home in search of anything, everything. (Sign this petition here to ask the Mexican government to send in security reinforcements.)

Los Cabos International Airport following Hurricane Odile.

Los Cabos International Airport following Hurricane Odile.

As far as I can tell from Facebook and word of mouth, all of my friends are technically safe, but biblically scared. (Listen here for one Canadian expat’s experience.)

If Southern Baja has ever touched your heart, or has a place in your memory treasure box, following are a couple legit places you can donate. These two organizations probably have no way of updating their websites with fancy hurricane relief links as yet, but I can tell you they do SO much good for the people and animals of Los Cabos and you can trust that your donation ultimately will be put to good use. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for ways to help specific friends over the next week or so, so message me if you’re interested in being kept posted on other ways to help. or their Crowdrise page,

And also, here:

Looking back on Hurricane John

I’m reminded of a brush we had with a hurricane when I lived in San Jose del Cabo. I journaled about it at the time–pre-blog days–and am reposting my journal entry (which I sent as a letter to friends in the States at the time) here today. It’s inane to even talk about Hurricane John in the same sentence as Hurricane Odile, but I’m marveling at what catastrophe might have been, and holding all the people of Baja California Sur in my prayers. If you’re so inspired, please do the same.

These used to be people's homes.

These used to be people’s homes.

TBT: Hurricane John, Los Cabos, 2006

Aside: I cannot even imagine what my friends and everyone else has lost in this horror. I dearly wish Hurricane Odile had unfolded as trivially as Hurricane John…

Thursday 8/31/06

I made a giant vegetable omelet for breakfast this morning. After all, I have to do something with all this food before the power goes out. I’ve thought about eating what’s left of my frozen 27th birthday cake—slathered in Grandma Fogel’s chocolate icing. And I’ve momentarily mourned the impending demise of my homemade Caesar salad dressing. The worst test, though, is to figure out what to do with the frozen filets of Brian-speared snapper, sea bass and dorado from our cruise in the Sea of Cortez a month ago. It’s not just fish; it’s memories.

Taking a break from considering the culinary impact of Hurricane John, I just put a tattered copy of Appley Dappley’s Nursery Rhymes, the 1980 favorite of Emily’s Book Club, into a Ziplock bag and stashed it in the corner of a bookshelf. Alongside it is my collection of journals from age 11 to the present, sealed away in freezer bags like the leftovers I can’t figure out how to save. And I, a Kansas City girl who barely knows the scrapes of a tornado, am left to wonder what exactly will be left over after a massive hurricane.

The carpets are rolled up, the paintings are hidden in closets, favorite books are in plastic and the TV is in a trash bag. The lawn chairs, flowerpots and other would-be projectiles are stowed on the side of the house and water, canned food and boxes of juice are stocked in the laundry room. A stash of clean clothes waits in a garbage bag that will hopefully still be dry after the storm has made itself at home. I have a first-aid kit, flashlights, candles and even a muzzle for the ever-loyal Tinkerbell, should she feel that someone gets too close to me in the hotel shelter. Nevertheless, even as I scurry around in a caffeine-assisted frenzy, the three dogs sprawled on the bare tile floor with their eyes trailing my every move, it’s hard to fathom the reality that a Class 3 or 4 hurricane is on its way.

All the networks have descended on Los Cabos—along with blue-bottomed clouds—and Brian did a live interview with Fox News this morning. Traffic is congested and the lines at the supermarket are 15 minutes at least. Everyone is buying just one more thing they think they may need: plastic buckets, batteries, masking tape, water and more. A woman in front of me had 750 plastic straws in her cart and I almost bought myself a Cabbage Patch Kid.

Now it’s a quarter till 2 p.m. on Thursday and I’m moving into Brian’s office at the Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, at 4:30 p.m. Since I probably can’t save the food in the freezer, my next step will be shoving our down comforter into a plastic trashcan, loading the seemingly unaffected dogs into the car and making my way to shelter. I will try to keep you all posted as long as we have power and phone lines and, in the mean time, know that we’ll be safe at the Westin and don’t pay too much attention to the news networks. As we all know, they’re always in search of the most dramatic story and sometimes they’re not afraid to make it up as they go…

This is the Westin Resort & Spa Los Cabos, where Brian worked, where we took shelter from the mini hurricane in 2006 and, as pictured here, the scene of our wedding.

This is the Westin Resort & Spa Los Cabos, where Brian worked, where we took shelter from the mini hurricane in 2006 and, as pictured here, the scene of our wedding.

This is an aerial shot of the Westin after Hurricane Odile.

This is an aerial shot of the Westin after Hurricane Odile.

9/4/06 Hurricane Juan?

I should’ve known better. I’ve been in Mexico long enough to know the drill.

You invite friends for dinner and either they’re an hour or two late or sometimes, if it’s a larger party, they may never even show up. Regardless, at the appointed time, the table is set, the music is on and your lipstick is fresh. And then you wait.

You wait for them to arrive and, if and when they ever do, both of you will act as though everything is fine, even though you have threatened your husband at least twice that you’re just going to eat all the smoked salmon cakes yourself if they don’t arrive in 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, you tell him you’re just going to call Francis and Therese to see if they want to come over for a last-minute dinner because it’s obvious your guests aren’t coming. Fifteen minutes more, you take your shoes off, plop on the couch with the dog, spill a drop of wine on your white blouse and the doorbell rings. We’re in Mexico for goodness’ sake. Why should a hurricane be any different?

After transforming our home into a big, black trash bag Thursday afternoon, I took shelter with the dogs in Brian’s office at 5:30 a.m. Friday. Despite all our hurricane preparedness, by noon, the birds were still chirping. Forecasters said Hurricane John would arrive at 8 a.m. Friday. At 8 a.m., they said he would join us at 11 a.m. At 11 a.m., they said 2 p.m. and at 2 p.m. they said 8 p.m. Somewhere along the way, Mr. Category-Four-turned-Category-Three, Nevermind-I’m-a-Category-Two slowed down to a leisurely 6 miles an hour, taking his sweet time in arriving. And, in the end, he must’ve had a better invitation.

We waited all day for something to happen. The satellite maps kept predicting the storm was heading straight for us, and Harris Whitbeck himself was live on the scene at the Westin covering the storm for CNN. However, we never saw the 110-mile-an-hour winds and horizontal rain for which we’d prepared.

In fact, it wasn’t until the eye was already 100 miles north of Cabo that we got anything more than flickering sprinkles, a gentle breeze and a sea without whitecaps. Unfortunately for our neighbors on the East Cape, John rearranged his evening to visit to Cabo Pulmo, Los Barriles, La Ribera and La Paz. I guess it didn’t matter to Hurricane John that the entire destination of Los Cabos was closed down, taped up and huddled in shelters awaiting his arrival.

When we returned to our home on Saturday afternoon, puddles of water greeted us in every room along with the stale smell of towels we forgot to pick up off the floor before we left. The arroyos had turned to rivers and the highway was covered in runoff from the hills, but other than that, there was little evidence of John in Los Cabos. We were lucky to have water, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to go without power for a day and a half, or to live without Internet for three days.

We still have six weeks left of hurricane season, and I’m counting down the days till October 15. With any luck, if Mother Nature takes hurricane form in the near future, she’ll again take the “when in Rome” approach to her travels. Because, lucky for us, Hurricane John behaved much more like a Hurricane Juan and, just this once, I was grateful.

Unfortunately, the Cabo San Lucas Marina endured a destructive beating by Hurricane Odile.

Unfortunately, the Cabo San Lucas Marina endured a destructive beating by Hurricane Odile.

Thanks to Edgar, Mike and Sherry's amazing friend and deckhand, shown helping Charlie back onto the boat, the Ambar III made it through Odile. The hurricane ripped through La Paz, where the Ambar III is docked.

However, our beloved friends’ boat made it through the storm in La Paz. Hurricane Odile ripped through La Paz, B.C.S., where the Ambar III is docked. Edgar, Mike and Sherry’s amazing friend and deckhand, is here helping Charlie back onto the boat in April somewhere near Isla Espiritu Santo.


3 thoughts on “Hurricane Odile

  1. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Los Cabos.

  2. Cabo friend of a friend in PV wrote this. I don’t know Chad, but thought you’d find it of interest. Crazy scary. I can’t believe another storm is possibly heading their way. They really need the prayers! JD

    Chad McMillan

    Thank you for all the best wishes my friends, tonight I am ok.

    There is a long story to tell but I will pack all this in to a quick post because there is still so much going on..

    Sunday night Cabo San Lucas and what appears to be a huge surrounding area was absolutely rocked by what I understand was a category 3, nearly category 4 hurricane. This storm was supposed to pass by us to the west but to the best of my knowledge it was a direct hit on Cabo. How do I know this? Because the eye of the storm passed directly over my head..

    That night I stayed in the lobby of my apartment building to help the management team weather the storm. There were about four of us there all night and a couple other residents that came down every so often to check in as required. Our lobby doors were wide open all night so there was no resistance for wind. Basically we were in the storm all night, clearing debris as things fell, removing potential lethal flying objects, and I even ended up down on the dock at one point helping a listing super yacht with a crew actually on board. I can barely even begin to describe the experience to you; of the power I felt and witnessed.

    Most of Cabo is heavily heavily damaged. In the days after I’ve rode my motorbike where I can to survey the damage and everywhere is a total mess. There has since been widespread looting, militias are forming, and the military is taking over..

    ..But I am ok.

    I have been trying to get supplies and information on another storm coming for the past few days. It looks like it’s coming close on Friday so I’ve already been preparing. They are trying to evacuate 100,000 tourists right now is what I understand, but the safest place for me to be is exactly where I am until things stabilize.

    Thank you all again for the well wishes. So many things to share, this has been surreal, but for now just this quick update. I will provide more information soon..

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