Tropical Storm threatens floods, slides in Mexico
LOS CABOS, Mexico – Tropical Storm Rick threatens to trigger dangerous flash floods and mud slides when it makes landfall in western Mexico after sparing Baja California‘s glitzy resorts a direct blow.
In Sinaloa, where Rick is expected to make landfall Wednesday, authorities suspended classes for two days in cities along the state’s southern coast.
Gov. Jesus Aguilar asked residents in a radio message to pay close attention to civil protection advisories and said soldiers were ready to help with possible evacuations.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami put Rick on a projected path south of the tip of the overnight, on course to hit the mainland near Mazatlan on Wednesday.
Forecasters said Rick could dump 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 centimeters) of rain in some areas in the states of Baja California, Sinaloa and Durango and warned of possible flash floods and mud slides.
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 65 mph (105 kph) Tuesday night, the Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 135 miles (215 kilometers) south-southeast ofand moving to the north-northeast at 12 mph (19 kph).
Los Cabos 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.
Caravans of police cars, military vehicles and buses fanned out to “high-risk neighborhoods” in low-lying areas acrossto evacuate residents.
Carlos Guevara, the Cabo San Lucas civil defense coordinator, said people became complacent as the afternoon rains dissipated and the sky began to clear.
“We have this storm in front of us. It has not passed,” he cautioned in a meeting of government officials.
Alejandro Flores, a 28-year-old waiter, said Tuesday night that he spent the last few days piling dirt around the side of his house to guard it from floodwaters. He and his wife were preparing to leave their neighborhood, where the pitted dirt roads are commonly inundated during hurricane season.
“I am very afraid of the flooding,” Flores said.
Meanwhile, far out in the Pacific Ocean, Hurricane Neki was centered about 625 miles (1,005 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu and about 270 miles (435 kilometers) east-southeast of Johnston Island. Maximum winds were at about 80 mph (129 kph).
Forecasters predicted Neki would brush by tiny Johnston Island on Wednesday.
The uninhabited island, which is part of the isolated , 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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