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California and the West

Hurricane Losing Strength Off Baja Coast

Weather: 'Linda is cooperating,' a forecaster says. But rain is still possible.


Hurricane Linda weakened Sunday as it moved into cooler waters, and forecasters said it appeared Southern California would "dodge a bullet."

The record-breaking storm may yet generate what forecasters called a "significant rain event," particularly in the valleys, mountains and deserts.

Surf could reach 10 feet and higher today. Lifeguards said they were gearing up to battle the big waves.

Nonetheless, forecasters said, it appeared that Linda--which was churning Sunday well off the coast of Baja California--would not become the first hurricane on record to slam full force into Southern California.

"Linda is cooperating," said John Sherwin, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which supplies weather information for The Times.

The storm was centered Sunday night about 760 miles southwest of San Diego, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was moving toward the northwest at 13 mph, meteorologist Mike Formosa said.

As the storm moved over cooler waters, winds slowed to 85 mph--still hurricane force but a sharp decrease from Friday's peak of 185 mph with gusts of 215 mph, winds that made Linda the most powerful storm on record in the Eastern Pacific.

It appeared Sunday the hurricane ultimately would stay at sea. James Lewis, a National Hurricane Center research scientist, said there was "no reasonable chance this system will make landfall in California."

The forecast for today calls for isolated showers and a "lot of high clouds," Sherwin said. High temperatures ought to reach the 70s along the beaches and the 90s in the valleys.

The chance of a shower today in downtown Los Angeles, he said, was "very, very remote." There has been no measurable rain at the Civic Center since Feb. 17, or 209 days through Sunday; this year's dry spell broke the record of 197 days set between April 12 and Oct. 27, 1927.

It was warm and muggy Sunday in Los Angeles and the sky was dotted with high clouds--telltale signs of the storm.

So, too, were the riptides that began bedeviling beaches midafternoon.

"We're making a lot more rescues than we have been the last few weeks," said Los Angeles County lifeguard Lt. Nick Steers at Zuma Beach. "The rips are really starting to pull."

Fire officials, meanwhile, said they had been barraged with 911 calls from people seeking hurricane updates.

"It's been a little crazy," said Capt. Scott Brown, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority. He added: "People don't need to panic like that if they're ready. They just have to be ready, and that's what we've been stressing."

Even with indications that Linda would miss Southern California, lifeguards made sure Sunday they were indeed prepared. Tractors for moving sand were at the ready; so, too, were rescue boats.

Most important, the phone list--for calling in all hands--was updated and ready, Steers said. "We are prepared . . . to do whatever it takes to get ready for this storm," he said.

Times staff writer Bonnie Hayes contributed to this story.

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