The presence of mind

Where to begin….

Our vacation was abruptly changed by a tropical storm which pounded Cabo San Lucas over a couple of days.  Barely a blip on the American Media frenzy that was too busy repeating stories of Hurricane Harvey, the storm packed 55-70mph sustained winds, but the real storm was the rain.  45-60 inches of rain in 6-8 hours in a lot for any area to handle, but the Baja peninsula is all sand and it doesn’t rain often, so when it does, it pools and doesn’t drain.

In brief, here is our timeline:

We arrived on Saturday afternoon on a beautiful day, Hot and Humid, but not unbearable by any means.  It’s the type of heat that challenges you, refreshes you, makes you desire the pool, water, a cold beverage.  By Tuesday, that heat became overcast, humid, unseasonal.  You could feel the weather changing, the Mexicans were also feeling the change– they like to inform us that a storm was coming and that they were expecting lots of rain– when they said it, you could see the seriousness in their eyes.  By Wednesday, the alerts were starting to be more and more frequent.  The property that we vacation at sent a note that a major storm was coming and that people on the beach property should move up to the Laguna, which is where our place is.  We read it, but weren’t concerned, we were in paradise!

Still, the more cautious side of me said we better go into town and get food and water to hold us until we at least Saturday, just in case.  We drove into town, which has both a Walmart and a Costco and stocked up.  The lines at the stores weren’t bad, which I took as a good sign.  If the Mexicans aren’t worried, why should we be?

By Thursday, we were closely monitoring the storm.  Given what Harvey had done to Houston, we were concerned, but given todays internet and all of the information being right there for you to consume and that just fed our imagination.  Lidia hadn’t touch the Baja yet, so it was unpredictable.  Being the people with the greatest access to technology, we feverishly began to consume all of the data we could about the impending storm.  The staff of the resort were busy packing everything away from the beach.  We used the NOAA site for the majority of our information, which, by the way, sucks because all of the information is different depending on which page you are actually reading.

Check it out for yourself,  There is a ton of data, but all of it seems to contradict, the wind data and the storm data aren’t totally inline– but after searching, I did find good data in the “discussion” topic, which actually was quite accurate with what we experienced.  The discussion said that the storm would hit us at 7:00pm with 25-30 inches of rain and the potential of a flash flood following were real events.  The storm kicked into high gear at 6:45pm in the evening and didn’t really let up until 4am.

Shortly after 7, our friends room begin to leak water.  At first it was from both of the doors leading outside, but the most notable concern came from the adjoining room, which was locked, which began to also leak water, which meant that room had a much larger leak and since we couldn’t investigate it, we assumed the worst.  We made a few calls to the front desk, who obviously had a number of other gringos they were needing to take care of.  After our third call, you know, just to let them know that there was more flooding, they decided to move us to the towers.

The Towers

Just before 9pm, we got a call that we were being moved to higher ground and we should prepare to take things.  Lili and I had prepared for this to potentially happen and were ready to go.  When the concierge showed up a few minutes later, they were ready to take us.  The move was swift and dizzying, we carried our bags through a foot of standing water outside of the suites– there is no where for the water to go, the ground is like a giant rock because it never really rains in Cabo, so the rain just sits on top of where it falls until it is either cleaned up or it becomes part of a raging river as you can see in the below video of the damage captured the next morning.


We thought going to the higher ground would take care of the issues, but we actually got a room in the towers that ended being more than likely worse than the one we left.  In the room in the towers, the ceiling was leaking from the massive amount of water that had gathered on the top of the building and had began to seep through the rock into the ceiling.  Luckily it stayed on the edges, but by the time we woke up in the morning, more and more of the ceiling was dripping, causing us to want to move again– all of the floors in the resort are tiled, so when they get wet, its like a skating rink, so it was dangerous.  We really grew concerned when they sent in a cleaning crew, who basically just mopped the floors, spreading the water that had leaked through the roof and the paint all over the tile, making it nearly impossible to get around without falling.

The next morning was where it all hit me, what we had been through and how tragic it could have been if the storm had been a little more powerful or would have lasted just a little longer.  It hit me particularly when we went up to the main part of the resort, The Dunes, which was fully functional within a few hours of opening– fully functional to the point where they were serving all the guests their delicious American style breakfasts and people were chugging down Latte’s and Waffles!  It was amazing to me.  Here we were in a second world country that had just endured a pretty major weather event, children died, swept away to sea, and I was ordering waffles for my kids.  Its surreal.  I ordered a Latte.

We talked to others, we had no idea of what was really happening beyond the gates of the resort, but no one wanted to leave the resort and check it out or try to help, we just wanted to wait it out and try to fly out the next day on schedule– after all, we were on vacation!


Flying Out

Later that day we began to hear that the road to the airport had been blown away.  The beautiful new toll road, which we drove in on, was now missing a 100 foot chunk of it (which you can see at the end of the video posted above).  The estimated time to get to the airport was well over 3 hours, so they were saying it was a 5 hour minimum to get to the airport, through customs and on a plane.

It took nearly 6.  We missed our plane by 45 minutes.  It literally took 5 hours to go from the resort to the end of Cabo, where we would need to go to the back of the Walmart to get the old road to get the airport– the problem was every Mexican in Cabo decided they also needed to be on the same road, but apparently not to get out of town because once we got half a mile past WalMart, there wasn’t a single car to be found.  This was probably the worst traffic jam I had ever been in my entire life and like most traffic jams, it didn’t make any sense why it was as bad as it was, except that the government should have been checking cars and forbidding people who didn’t have an immediate need (LIKE GETTING TO THE AIRPORT, HELLO?!?) to be on that specific road.  Again, I find myself pissed at myself for wanting things to be more organized and civil, but look, its Mexico!  Part of the reason why I love Mexico is because it is the way it is, like I said at the beginning of this, you feel alive, you feel on the edge a little, so it awakens your senses, makes you more alert and aware.  But it also pisses you off because you know it can be better, things can be better for these people… and it is getting better.  We felt constantly safe there and I will be taking my family back there, again and again, because Cabo does offer that out of your element experience, but the resort also offers a better than your normal element experience 99% of the time.  We just happened to be there for the 1% part too, this time, yet we made it out ok.

Here’s some additional photos of the storm and damage.