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Hurricane Takes a Turn for Mazatlan

The resort city is caught off guard as Lane veers toward the mainland. The storm weakens to Category 1 after making landfall near Culiacan.

September 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

MAZATLAN, Mexico — Hurricane Lane struck 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 with Americans. It forced officials to cancel the annual Independence Day parade.

After Lane reached land, the National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded it to Category 1.

Residents evacuated people in low-lying areas and set up shelters for the displaced.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, the storm was about 30 miles north-northwest of Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state and a center for the region's booming agriculture and food-processing industry. It was moving north at 8 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.

The city of 750,000 is also notorious as the hometown of several of Mexico's top drug traffickers.

The hurricane caught Mazatlan off guard after it took an unexpected turn toward the mainland. Many people 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 in Mazatlan, where receptionist Alma Baldez and other employees hurried to hand out candles to guests taking refuge in their rooms. Many had just arrived after a long night celebrating Independence Day.

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

On Thursday, rains lashed coastal towns to the south, causing a landslide that killed a 7-year-old boy in Acapulco and floods that forced hundreds of people in western Mexico 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 on Baja California's tip.

The peninsula appeared to escape the wrath of Lane, which originally was expected to hit the area head-on.

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