by Staff Writers
La Paz, Mexico (AFP) Oct 16, 2012
Hurricane Paul weakened as it swirled toward Mexico's Pacific coast Tuesday, prompting authorities to close schools and government offices as the storm approached a lightly populated area.
The hurricane lost some punch as it neared the Baja California peninsula, with maximum sustained winds of 145 kilometers per hour (90 miles per hour), the US National Hurricane Center said.
"Preparations to protect life and property should have been completed," the Miami-based center said in an 1800 GMT advisory.
The latest advisory said Paul weakened to a category one hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale and was about 72 kilometers (45 miles) from the town of Cabo San Lazaro on the southwestern coast of the peninsula.
The hurricane, which was moving north at 29 kph (18 mph), was expected to make landfall on Tuesday and weaken further as it moves over the peninsula's high terrain "during the next day or so," the hurricane center said.
Isolated areas could see up to 25 centimeters (10 inches) of rainfall, the center said, adding that the storm could produce "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides" in mountainous areas.
Paul was also expected to generate dangerous ocean swells and rip currents.
Civil protection authorities in the state of Baja California Sur issued an alert and opened 133 shelters that can house around 30,000 people.
"For safety reasons, work is suspended in all government offices," said Baja California Sur Governor Marco Covarrubias Villasenor.
Authorities expect the hurricane to hit lightly-populated fishing areas.
On the Atlantic, meanwhile, Hurricane Rafael was packing maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers an hour and was located about 315 kilometers south of Bermuda.
Rafael -- the ninth hurricane of the Atlantic season -- was expected to pass east of Bermuda late Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.
On the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, one man was killed over the weekend when his car was swept away in a flash flood generated by Rafael, then a tropical storm. The body was found on Tuesday.
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