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Old 10-18-09, 08:31 AM   #1
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Post Hurricane Rick maintains strength off Mexico coast (AFP)

AFP - Hurricane Rick maintained its furious strength early Sunday after becoming what forecasters described as the second-strongest storm on record to hit the eastern north Pacific Ocean.

The US National Hurricane Center called Rick "extremely dangerous" and urged anyone in the storm's path to take precautions.

"Interests in southern Baja California and the southwest coast of Mexico should monitor the progress of this extremely dangerous hurricane storm," the Miami-based center said.

Rick reached top category five status on Saturday as it churned toward Mexico's Pacific coast with top winds of more than 180 miles (285 kilometers) per hour, US forecasters said.

The storm roared to the top of the Saffir-Simpson scale after warm waters prompted Rick's dramatic rise from a category one to a category five system in less than 36 hours.

"With 180 mph winds, Rick becomes the second-strongest eastern north Pacific hurricane on record after Linda of 1997," the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

At 1500 GMT Sunday, Rick was around 500 miles (800 kilometers) south-southeast of the resort town of Cabo San Lucas as it headed west-northwest at 14 miles (22 kilometers) per hour, parallel to Mexico's southern coast, the NHC said.

Rick is on track to turn northward on Tuesday and "is expected to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane for the next day or two," the NHC said.

The storm should crash ashore in the upscale resort town of Los Cabos on the Baja California peninsula, but most likely as a weakened category-two system, Jesus Carachure with Mexico's National Weather Service told AFP.

The US forecasters warned about "potentially dangerous surf conditions" caused by large ocean swells.

The seventh hurricane of the eastern north Pacific 2009 season, Rick comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Patricia, which last week placed Los Cabos on Baja's southern tip under a state of emergency, before petering out.

The peninsula was battered in early September by Hurricane Jimena, which ripped roofs off houses and caused floods that killed at least one person.

Meanwhile, there have only been two hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean in the 2009 season, which runs from June 1 to late November 30, but normally peaks in September and October.

Hurricane Bill reached powerful Category Four intensity on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale in mid-August. It bypassed most of the Caribbean and the US east coast, making landfall in southeastern Canada and causing modest damage.

Hurricane Fred formed in the Atlantic in early September, but petered out over the ocean before making landfall.


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