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Old 10-19-09, 05:39 AM   #1
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Post Hurricane Rick weakens as it nears Mexico coast (AFP)

AFP - Monster Hurricane Rick weakened and slowed down early Monday as it barreled up Mexico's Pacific coast as a downgraded Category Three storm, with US forecasters still calling it "dangerous."

"Maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 125 miles (205 kilometers) per hour with higher gusts," the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

At 0900 GMT Monday, Rick was around 380 miles (615 km) south southwest of the resort town of Cabo San Lucas as it headed northwest at 10 miles (17 km) per hour, parallel to Mexico's coast, the NHC said.

The government of Mexico issued a hurricane watch for southern Baja California, from Santa Fe southward on the west coast of the peninsula.

The warning also extended on the east coast south of San Evaristo.

Forecasters predict that Rick will pick up speed as it moves towards the northeast, with the center of the storm arriving at southern Baja California late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

The NHC warned about "potentially dangerous surf conditions" from large ocean swells and said "interests in western mainland Mexico should monitor the progress of this hurricane."

The Miami-based weather center said Rick would gradually lose some of its power over the next 24 to 48 hours, but despite weakening "is still expected to be a dangerous hurricane as it approaches the southern Baja Peninsula."

The hurricane attained Category Five status on Saturday, as it barreled towards Mexico's Pacific coast with winds of more than 180 miles (285 km) per hour.

Rick reached the top of the Saffir-Simpson scale after warm waters prompted its dramatic rise from a Category One to a Category Five system in less than 36 hours.

Before losing some of its punch early Monday, Rick clocked windspeeds of 180 miles per hour, making it the second-strongest hurricane ever in the eastern north Pacific hurricane. Only Hurricane Linda in 1997 packed faster winds.

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 lost power over the ocean before making landfall.


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