Why Was Tropical Storm Lidia So Destructive?

After all, it wasn’t even a hurricane

There is a lot of finger pointing as to why Tropical Storm Lidia did so much damage in the two arroyos just outside of Cabo. The destruction was more than you would normally expect from that much rain. There are competing theories of why this happened, but nearly everyone who suffered damage is suing Conagua, the federal water agency.

The part of this story that is not in dispute is that the new owners of the Cabo San Lucas Country Club built a new retaining wall to protect their property which is very near one of the two adjacent arroyos, and that wall catastrophically failed. When it failed, a wall of water, debris and sand rushed down the arroyo, inundating Vagabundos restaurant, the Vagabundos trailer park and the Chevrolet dealership.

It also roared through the Riu Santa Fe, leaving the lobby swamped with several feet of sand and mud. And it took out important power lines coming into Cabo. Also hit with rushing sand were half dozen businesses on the south side of the highway. Of course, all four lanes of the highway were clogged with sand for several days.

OK, that’s fact, now for the two sides to the story that are in dispute.

Property owners downstream are blaming the failure of the wall on inadequate engineering. This, they say, is not the fault of the country club that built it, but Conagua engineers who approved the plans. They are teaming up together to sue the federal agency.

The country club is not saying it was poor engineering, they are saying that no wall could possibly withstand the sudden assault of the chunks of concrete and debris that hit their wall when the new toll road behind them suddenly failed.

It appears this whole mess is headed for the courts, but in the meantime, everyone is digging their businesses out. The country club had five holes wiped out, most buried under four feet of sand. Along the lines of “if you’re handed lemons, make lemonade,” general manager Alfonso Terrazas is hoping they will re-build on top of the sand, raising the level of the property. Whether investors go for that idea remains to be seen.

The human cost of life in and near the arroyos is the worst of the tragedy. It is estimated that 7,000 families were illegally squatting on federal land that is officially deemed too dangerous to inhabit. After all, an arroyo is a dry river bed that is very, very wet several times a year. It is a given that there will be water rushing into their makeshift homes. When a storm is predicted, the Civil Patrol goes shanty to shanty urging people to get out, and even driving people to city sponsored shelters in local schools, along with food, diapers, etc. But many people simply won’t leave. 

The official death total we’re getting from the city is eight, but most people think it is far higher.