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A step ahead of hurricane

July 24, 2005|Jane Engle

How do you get reliable information about hurricanes headed toward your vacation destination?

That question may have been on travelers' minds early last week as resorts in Cancun, Cozumel and areas along the Riviera Maya on Mexico's eastern coast cleaned up after Hurricane Emily.

At the Travel section's deadline Tuesday, Texas was braced for a possible landfall.

With experts predicting a heavy hurricane season this year, it's a good idea to log on to the National Hurricane Center website, www.nhc.noaa.gov, before heading out. The site, maintained by the National Weather Service, provides regular hurricane forecasts and advice.

If you're scheduled to sail or fly, check with your cruise line or airline for changes in flights or routing. Be prepared for last-minute switches; a hurricane's path and strength can be erratic.

Once a storm hits, contact your travel agent or destination hotel to find out about local conditions.

Some tourist bureaus issue reports. For instance, the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau posted information on its airport, hotel damage and utilities last week at www.cancun.info.

Also, check advisories from local emergency agencies. You can usually link to these by visiting the website of a county or state.

These reports may offer specific information on road closures, flooding, power outages and other problems that could affect your stay.

For instance, the South Padre Island Emergency Management team in Texas issued a notice Tuesday that the resort island's popular beaches were closed for recreation "until further notice." The notice was posted at sopadreemergencycom.readyhosting.com.

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American's last-minute bargains

American Airlines has begun offering last-minute vacation packages that combine flights with hotel stays, car rentals or both.

They can be booked from 14 days to three hours before departure at www.aa.com/lastminutepackages.

Dozens of deals are available -- more than 100 from Los Angeles alone were posted on Tuesday. You can earn frequent-flier miles on the flights, but the packages are nonrefundable.

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Steinbeck Festival is a packed event

The annual Steinbeck Festival in Salinas, Calif., honoring native son and Nobel Prize-winning novelist John Steinbeck, is adding events for its 25th anniversary in August.

The festival, Aug. 4 to 7, will feature speakers, theater, music and walking and bus tours of the late author's haunts.

Among new events this year is an Aug. 7 bus tour of Salinas Valley featuring River Road, which runs along the Salinas River, mentioned in "East of Eden." The $45, six-hour River Road Steinbeck Country Tour includes lunch and a wine-tasting.

Some events were sold out as of Tuesday. Event prices vary. You can also buy a $65 four-day festival passport, which covers many events. Information: (831) 775-4721; www.steinbeck.org.

-- Jane Engle

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