Hurricane Lane Weakens To Category 1

This image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Lane collected at 3:30 am EDT Saturday Sept. 16, 2006. Hurricane Lane strengthened to a dangerous Category 3 on Saturday. AP

Hurricane Lane slammed into a sparsely populated stretch of Mexico's Pacific coast south of the city of Culiacan 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.

At 8 p.m. Saturday evening, Lane was centered about 30 miles southeast of Culiacan and 110 miles northwest of Mazatlan. It was moving north at 9 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.

The storm was expected to hit Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state and a center for the region's booming agriculture and food-processing industry. The city of 750,000 is also notorious as the hometown of several of Mexico's top drug traffickers.

Earlier, the hurricane took an unexpected turn toward the mainland and caught Mazatlan off guard. Many awoke to strong winds and a pounding rain. Previous projections had Lane heading toward the Baja California peninsula.

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.

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.

It was the second hurricane to menace the region recently. 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.

The peninsula, however, appeared to escape Hurricane Lane's wrath. Dan McGonagle, a 46-year-old salesman from Littleton, Colorado, 46, walked along the marina of Cabo San Lucas early Saturday, looking out on cloudy skies. It wasn't even raining, but many stores still had their windows covered with wood.

"It's a relief," he said. "It could have been really scary. I mean they had sandbags out and were preparing for flooding at the hotel."

Some airlines canceled flights out of the peninsula on Saturday.

Also Saturday, Tropical Storm Miriam formed way out in the Pacific Ocean, southwest of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, the National Hurricane Center said.
  • Sean Alfano

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