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Old 10-20-09, 06:34 AM   #1
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Post Weakened Tropical Storm Rick nears Mexico resorts (AP)

AP - Once-powerful Hurricane Rick lost most of its punch as it headed toward Mexican resort regions as a tropical storm on Tuesday, but local authorities still prepared for evacuations due to flooding.

Rick had been the strongest hurricane in the eastern North Pacific region since 1997, with winds of 180 mph (290 kph) last week, and it kicked up high waves hundreds of miles from its center that killed at least two people. But Rick spent its force far out at sea and was weakened by moving across cooler waters.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Rick was projected to limp past the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula late Tuesday before crossing the mouth of the Gulf of California and hitting the mainland near Mazatlan.

The storm's maximum sustained winds were down to 65 mph (100 kph) Tuesday morning, the Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 240 miles (380 kilometers) south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas and was moving to the north-northeast at 6 mph (9 kph).

Authorities in the resorts of Los Cabos said seven shelters would be open at schools for people in low-lying neighborhoods.

"We are going to get a lot of rain," said Los Cabos civil defense director Francisco Cota. Soldiers were sent to help with possible evacuations.

At the Los Cabos airport, American Airlines spokesman Alfredo Hernandez said the carrier added an extra flight to Dallas on Tuesday after fielding requests from tourists anxious to get out ahead of the storm.

Hotel employees cleared furniture from balconies and patios but stopped short from boarding up windows or moving guests to shelters.

Jesus Rubio, a receptionist at the Hotel Sinisterra, said only a few guests left because of the storm.

"There is water, food and electricity, and with those three things (the guests) are happier," Rubio said.

Rick was the second strongest storm to hit the eastern North Pacific since experts began keeping reliable records in 1966, topped only by Hurricane Linda, which generated maximum winds of 185 mph (297 kph) in September 1997.

Long before Rick neared the peninsula, its powerful surf claimed two victims. A 16-year-old boy swimming at El Medano beach drowned Monday and a 38-year-old man fishing from a rocky point was swept away by a big wave the previous day.


Associated Press writer Ignacio Martinez in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, contributed to this report.


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