Storm weakens off Mexico coast, still rain threat

AP News
Posted: Oct 22, 2013 11:06 PM
Storm weakens off Mexico coast, still rain threat

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Raymond weakened to barely a Category 1 storm Tuesday while still stalled off Mexico's Pacific coast, pumping rain onto an already sodden region recovering from a battering by a tropical storm last month.

Raymond was centered 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of the beach resort of Zihuatanejo Tuesday night, and its winds had dropped to 75 mph (120 kph), down from Category 3 on Monday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was expected to weaken to a tropical storm by Wednesday and head out to sea.

But stung by the tardy reaction to the damage and deaths from Tropical Storm Manuel in September, authorities in Guerrero state took no chances, moving hundreds of people from isolated mountain communities and low-lying shore areas. More than 1,500 soldiers were sent into the area.

Even if Raymond didn't move inland, it could still cause floods and mudslides to an area reeling from more than $1.7 billion in damage and about 120 deaths from Manuel.

"Slow and erratic motion is expected during the next 12 hours and Raymond could still move closer to the coast of Mexico," the hurricane center said.

Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre urged people to stay off roads because of potentially dangerous rains.

"The phenomenon's behavior is completely erratic, completely unpredictable," Aguirre said Monday night.

There were no reports of torrential downpours, but rain fell and some streets flooded in soaked Acapulco, where city workers reinforced roads with sand bags. About 400 people were evacuated from hamlets around nearby Coyuca.

In the mountain town of El Paraiso, authorities evacuated about 500 residents by Tuesday evening and planned to completely empty the village of 7,000 people because of possible landslides, said Guerrero state's deputy secretary of civil protection, Constantino Gonzalez.

Schools in most coastal communities west of Acapulco, including Zihuatanejo, were kept closed.

Forecasters said Raymond was expected to follow an erratic path through the night and could bring as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain to some parts of the coast.

About 10,000 people in Guerrero already were living away from their homes a month after Manuel inundated whole neighborhoods and caused landslides that buried much of one village. It left behind drenched hillsides that pose serious landslide risks.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Tecpan de Galeana, up the coast from Acapulco, north to the port of Lazaro Cardenas. A hurricane watch from Acapulco to Tecpan de Galeana was discontinued.

Meanwhile in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Lorenzo strengthened far out to sea. Lorenzo's maximum sustained winds were over 50 mph (80 kph) with little change in strength forecast. The storm was centered about 830 miles (1,335 kilometers) east of Bermuda and was moving east near 8 mph (13 kph).