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Hurricane Linda weakens, may be headed for California


Coastal flooding reported in Mexico

September 13, 1997
Web posted at: 10:43 p.m. EDT (0243 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Hurricane Linda, the strongest hurricane on record in the eastern Pacific, caused flooding in coastal areas of Mexico Saturday as it continued to churn toward Southern California.

Late Saturday, Linda was about 400 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California, moving northward at about 13 miles per hour.

Winds that had been gusting to as much as 200 miles per hour on Friday had decreased to about 150 miles per hour Saturday. Still, Linda was a category four storm, on a scale of one to five, and winds and waves stretched more than 600 miles from its eye.

In Mexico, flooding was reported in Michoacan, Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa states as powerful waves came ashore. Ports were closed in the resort towns of San Carlos, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, La Paz and Puerto Vallarta.

Predictions on Linda's path provided different assessments as to whether the storm would become the first hurricane ever known to hit California. Such tropical storms are rare in the eastern Pacific.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said winds could steer Linda on a northeastern track toward California's coastline over the next three or four days. Even if Linda does not hit land, it could produce heavy rains and flooding, according to U.S. forecasters.

However, Mexican meteorologists were more sanguine, saying they doubted Linda would reach land and would most likely fade into the ocean.

The hurricane, which draws strength from warm tropical waters, is expected to weaken as it moves further north into colder waters. But the weakening will be more gradual than might be expected because waters in the area are warmer than average. That's due to El Nino, a weather phenomenon in which ocean temperatures are unusually warm.

In San Diego, U.S. Navy officials were tracking Linda's progress to determine whether they would have to send ships out to sea as a protective measure. At Zuma Beach, lifeguards were receiving reports that swells could reach 15 feet.

"We've got extra people on call. We're moving sand around, making sure storm drains are clear," said lifeguard Bill Powers.

California weather centers issue shipping and flood warnings for Southern California and the San Francisco area.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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