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Old 10-21-09, 05:52 AM   #1
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Post Tropical Storm threatens Mexico with flooding (AP)

AP - Tropical Storm Rick weakened rapidly as it headed for a soggy collision with Mexico's Pacific coast near Mazatlan on Wednesday after sparing Baja California's glitzy resorts a direct blow.

Authorities suspended classes for two days in coastal cities of Sinaloa state and readied shelters for possible evacuations due to flooding.

Forecasters said Rick could dump as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) on isolated parts of Sinaloa and Durango states, creating the risk of flash floods and mudslides.

Over the weekend, Rick's winds were clocked at 180 mph (290 kph) — making it the strongest hurricane in the eastern North Pacific region since 1997 — and it kicked up high waves hundreds of miles (kilometers) away that killed at least two people. But the storm spent its force far out at sea and weakened over cooler waters.

Rick's maximum sustained winds were down to 55 mph (90 kph) Wednesday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Mazatlan and was heading northeast at about 16 mph (26 kph).

The storm passed south of the resorts at Los Cabos on the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, but it still brought heavy rains. Mayor Oscar Rene Nunez said officials would close schools there and urged residents living in makeshift homes and those in flood zones to seek shelter.

Meanwhile, far out in the Pacific Ocean, Hurricane Neki was centered about 630 miles (1,014 kilometers) west-southwest of Honolulu and about 235 miles (378 kilometers) east of Johnston Island. Maximum winds were at about 85 mph (137 kph).

A hurricane watch was issued for the Papahanaumokuakea National Monument, a marine conservation area northwest of Hawaii.

Forecasters predicted Neki would brush by tiny Johnston Island on Wednesday.

The uninhabited island, which is part of the isolated Johnston Atoll, is under the primary jurisdiction and control of the U.S. Air Force. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a national wildlife refuge there.


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


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