Mexicans evacuate as hurricane weakens in Pacific

JOSE ANTONIO RIVERA
A child and his dogs play on a sand pile in Coyuca de Benitez, near Acapulco, Mexico, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Raymond weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm Wednesday and began moving away from Mexico's Pacific coast, granting relief to a region devastated by Tropical Storm Manuel last month. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
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Hurricane Raymond - 10/23/13

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Raymond weakened to Category 1 Tuesday and began slowly drifting away from Mexico's already storm-battered Pacific coast, pumping rain into a region that can't absorb much more.

Raymond was centered 100 miles (155 kilometers) from the beach resort of Zihuatanejo Tuesday afternoon and its winds had dropped to 90 mph (150 kph), making it a Category 1 hurricane, down from Category 3 on Monday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

But stung by the tardy reaction to the damage and deaths from last month's Tropical Storm Manuel, authorities were taking no chances. Even if Raymond doesn't move inland, it could still bring floods and mudslides to an area reeling from more than $1.7 billion in damages and about 120 deaths caused by Manuel.

The government of the Pacific coast state of Guerrero moved hundreds of people from isolated mountain communities and low-lying shore areas. More than 1,500 army troops were moved into the area to be ready if needed.

Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre urged people to stay off the road Tuesday because of potentially dangerous rains.

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

There were no reports of torrential rains Tuesday, but sporadic rains fell in some parts of the state 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.

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

Forecasters said it was expected to follow an erratic path over the next day, possibly getting closer to the coast, then turn sharply westward and head out into the Pacific on Wednesday. But it could still bring as much as 12 inches (30 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 hurricane warning was in effect from Tecpan de Galeana, up the coast from Acapulco, north to the port of Lazaro Cardenas. A tropical storm warning was posted from Acapulco to Tecpan.

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 775 miles (1,250 kilometers) east of Bermuda and was moving east-northeast near 8 mph (13 kph).