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Hurricane Lane hits Mexican coast

Published September 17, 2006

MAZATLAN, Mexico - Many of the guests at Mazatlan's Hotel Royal Villas had just arrived after a long night celebrating Mexico's Independence Day when they were surprised by a hurricane lashing the popular resort.

On Friday night, powerful Hurricane Lane was barreling toward the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula. But it took an unexpected turn toward Mazatlan on the mainland and residents there awoke Saturday morning to strong winds and a pounding rain.

There was no electricity early Saturday at the hotel, where receptionist Alma Baldez and other employees scurried to hand out candles to guests taking refuge in their rooms. City officials canceled Saturday's celebrations as the storm approached.

"It's really ugly out there," Baldez said.

Hurricane Lane slammed into a sparsely populated stretch of Mexico's Pacific coast south of the city of Culiacan on Saturday after battering Mazatlan, a resort and retirement community popular among Americans.

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. After it made landfall, the National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded it to a Category 1 storm.

Late Saturday night, the storm was north-northwest of Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state and a center for the region's agriculture and food-processing industry. It was moving north at 8 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. Culiacan, a city of 750,000, is also the hometown of several of Mexico's top drug traffickers.

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.

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

Helene now a hurricane

Hurricane Helene became better organized and strengthened a bit just east of the northern Leeward Islands Saturday, while a weakened Hurricane Gordon slowly drifted over the open Atlantic, forecasters said.

Helene had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is the fourth hurricane of the season.

At 11 p.m. Saturday, Helene was centered about 1,025 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands and moving west-northwest at 10 mph, forecasters said.

Gordon had top sustained winds near 75 mph, down from 85 mph on Friday. Its ragged eye was centered about 640 miles east of Bermuda and moving north at just 3 mph, forecasters said.

Neither hurricane posed an immediate threat to land.

Typhoon hammers Japan

TOKYO - A strong typhoon tore through Japan's southern Okinawa island chain Sunday, unleashing heavy rains and fierce winds that have killed three people, injured scores and triggered landslides.

Typhoon Shanshan had weakened overnight but still lashing the region with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. It was forecast to hit Japan's southwestern island of Kyushu as early as this evening, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

Heavy rain warnings were issued for much of western Japan, but the storm has so far killed three people before even making landfall.

Typhoons and tropical storms frequently hit eastern Asia in the summer and fall. Shanshan is a Chinese term for young girls.

[Last modified September 17, 2006, 01:30:23]

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