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Lane Weakens After Lashing Mexico Coast

September 17, 2006

MAZATLAN, Mexico (AP) _ Hurricane Lane slammed into a sparsely populated stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast on Saturday after battering the resort of Mazatlan with strong winds and rain.

The storm, which hit land at Category 3 strength, flooded streets, forced the airport to cancel flights and knocked out power in parts of Mazatlan, a resort and retirement community popular among Americans. It forced officials to cancel the traditional Independence Day parade. After it made landfall, the National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded it to a Category 1 storm.

Lane was expected to weaken to a tropical storm Sunday morning as it moved father inland, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

At 2 a.m. EDT the storm was about 35 miles north-northwest of Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state and a center of the region’s booming agriculture and food-processing industry. It was moving north at 8 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph _ down from 85 mph a few hours earlier.

Culiacan, a city of 750,000 is also notorious as the hometown of several of Mexico’s top drug traffickers. People living in low-lying areas were evacuated and shelters were set up for the displaced.

The hurricane’s unexpected turn toward the mainland caught Mazatlan off guard, and many were suprised to wake to strong winds and a pounding rain.

There was no electricity early Saturday at the Hotel Royal Villas, where receptionist Alma Baldez and other employees scurried to hand out candles to guests taking refuge in their rooms. Many had just arrived at the hotel after a long night celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day. City officials canceled Saturday’s celebrations as the storm approached.

``It’s really ugly out there,″ Baldez said.

Later, dozens of surfers paddled out to massive waves whipped up the storm, and residents splashed in knee-deep water.

``It was strong. It hit badly, but it could have been worse,″ said Carlos Borcio, a 25-year-old tourist visiting from Culiacan who was watching the waves and drinking beer with two friends.

Jesus Martinez rode his bike to work through flooded streets.

``It’s better this way,″ he said. ``Normally, it’s really hot, and now it’s nice.″

Earlier this week, rains lashed coastal towns to the south, causing a landslide that killed a 7-year-old boy Thursday in Acapulco and flooding across western Mexico that forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.

Two weeks ago, Hurricane John unleashed wind and rain on Cabo San Lucas, a remote enclave on the Baja California’s southern tip. Though the storm did not directly hit the resort famous for deep-sea fishing, world-class golf courses and pristine beaches, it killed five people and damaged highways and homes in the region.

Also Saturday, Tropical Storm Miriam formed way out in the Pacific Ocean, southwest of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, the National Hurricane Center said. Forecasters said there was a slight chance it would turn toward land later in the week, hitting a sparsely populated section of the peninsula’s coastline.

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On the Net:

National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov

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