Most Americans now able to leave battered resort

September 26, 2014
In The News

(09-20) 18:00 PDT Cabo San Lucas, Mexico -- Most Americans stranded in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico after a hurricane blew in to demolish the luxury paradise are now safely heading home, leaving behind them the vacation-turned-nightmare.

But even as roads opened and commercial flights were restored over the weekend, for some the nightmare hadn't yet subsided.

Ishqa Hillman still had yet to hear from her father, Christopher "Kit" Hillman, a San Francisco ironworker who had retired to Cabo.

Like many others with relatives still missing, Hillman took to Twitter as an outlet for her anxiety, firing out tweets like "ok daddy where are you?" into the echo of the Internet, affixed with hashtags such as #PrayForCabo and #PleaseBeAlright.

Hurricane Odile struck last Sunday, turning much of the resort town into piles of rubble and cutting off much of southern Baja California from food and fresh water. Many Bay Area residents were among those stuck in the aftermath, stranded and waiting for roads and airports to reopen.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico said Friday evening that most American citizens had left the area and flights were readily available to those who still wanted to leave. The highway running north from remote Cabo to Tijuana had also reopened, but embassy officials warned that traveling its path was still dangerous due to wash-outs and gas shortages.

The State Department arranged four charter flights to evacuate more than 500 Americans, and called on the U.S. Coast Guard and Defense Department to assist in evacuations as well.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, worked to get 72 Americans home and helped draft a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for a step-up in the aid plan. (Swalwell's office said that as of Saturday Kerry had not responded to the request.)

Brianna Penna, a San Francisco attorney, caught one of the first flights out Tuesday on a Mexican military plane.

"We were running out of food and water and there was all this looting," she said. "We were so lucky. I'm just thinking about all of the people still stuck down there. It was bad."

Amid the reports of looting and massive devastation, Hillman was having a hard time not fearing the worst. More bad weather was expected in the area Saturday night, with Tropical Storm Polo expected to bring heavy rainfall and onshore winds of up to 50 mph.

Hillman had heard that the power was out in much of the area where her father had recently bought a plot of land. Her hope was that she would hear from him once electricity was restored.

"I'm just trying not to freak out until then" she said. "I'm trying to stay distracted."