Hurricane Paul weaker, still a threat - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Hurricane Paul weaker, still a threat

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Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 3:44 am

SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico - Hurricane Paul weakened Tuesday, but emergency workers remained on standby to evacuate thousands of residents from this popular resort.

About 2,000 to 3,000 families could be evacuated from flood-risk areas to 49 shelters, mostly schools, ahead of Paul, the third hurricane this season to threaten the area, said Francisco Cota, civil defense director for the two resort cities of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.

Paul had maximum sustained winds near 80 mph and was moving north at about 8 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Paul's winds weakened from 105 mph and the storm was downgraded to a Category 1, the center said.

Forecasters predicted it was likely to weaken further before hitting Mexico's mainland Pacific coast by Wednesday. A Category 1 hurricane is generally accompanied by a 4-5 foot storm surge and causes minimal damage.

A hurricane watch was replaced with a tropical storm warning for the tip of Baja California, which has been battered by two other hurricanes this season. The storm was forecast to pass just south of the peninsula late Tuesday before hitting Mexico's Pacific coast near the resort of Mazatlan.

Mexico's government also issued a tropical storm watch for the west coast of the country's mainland from Mazatlan to Altata.

At 8 a.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Paul was estimated about 295 miles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas, and about 440 miles southwest of Mazatlan.

Known for their rugged beauty, San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are popular with sports fishermen and celebrities and famous for world-class golf courses and pristine beaches flanked by cactus-dotted deserts.

A light rain fell in Cabo San Lucas on Monday as employees at the upscale Hotel Finisterra passed out the latest weather report to update guests about the storm. They also were scrambling to organize indoor activities.

"We want to make sure we have entertainment for people during the storm to keep people tranquil and safe and provided with food and entertainment: movies, board games, interactive games with staff like bingo," said Patricia Garcia, concierge at Hotel Finisterra.

Marjorie Sippola, 37, a tourist from Granite Bay, Calif., said she was not worried about the hurricane.

"I'm going to drink tequila, raid the mini bar and watch the storm from my beachfront casita," Sippola said.

Steve Clay, 40, a native of San Clemente, Calif., who lives on the peninsula, said he also was not concerned, having survived a recent hurricane.

"I didn't feel any fear," Clay said. "Actually it was a lot of fun, although I got a little wet."

Some, however, weren't sticking around for the storm. Long lines snaked from ticket counters at the airport in San Jose del Cabo.

Mexico was struck by two Pacific hurricanes last month. Hurricane John battered Baja California, killing five people and destroying 160 homes, while Hurricane Lane hit the resort town of Mazatlan, causing relatively minor damage.

Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Weather Service, said a trough of low pressure has been sending storms this season on a track that takes them toward Mexico's Baja peninsula.

Both Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons, which end Nov. 30, have been normal this year, Feltgen said, adding that the United States has been fortunate to not be hit by any of the five hurricanes in 2006. The Atlantic had a record season last year with devastating storms, including Hurricane Katrina that struck New Orleans.

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