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Hurricane Linda rumbles off S. California coast

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Region braces for harsh weather

September 14, 1997
Web posted at: 11:59 a.m. EDT (1559 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Southern California on Sunday braced for heavy rain, high winds and pounding waves generated by Hurricane Linda, the strongest hurricane on record for the eastern Pacific.

Winds that had gusted up to 220 mph (354 kph) off the coast of Mexico on Friday decreased to 105 mph (174 kph) by Sunday as it moved across cooler waters. The storm was expected to meander off the coast over the next few days.

But officials predicted the storm would wreak havoc across the region, even if it never makes landfall.

The government of Mexico issued a coastal flood warning, saying high tides from the hurricane could devastate beaches and communities.

At Zuma Beach, California, lifeguards were receiving reports that swells could reach 15 feet (4.6 meters).

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

Firefighters, toiling with a ferocious blaze in San Bernardino National Forest, were preparing for floods and mudslides.

Storm expected to weaken further

As of 11 a.m. EDT, the storm was about 760 miles (1,216 km) south of San Diego. It was churning toward Southern California at about 13 mph (20 kph), but early Sunday it made a slight turn toward the west, the National Hurricane Center reported.


If it stays on its current route, the center of the hurricane should remain about 200 miles (320 km) off the California coast, said Jay Stockton, a forecaster for the National Weather Service.

In San Diego, U.S. Navy officials were tracking Linda's progress and making sure piers and ships were clear of loose gear that could blow or wash away, said Chief Brent Johnston of Naval Base San Diego.

The hurricane, which gets its strength from warm tropical waters, was expected to weaken as it moved into colder northwest seas. But officials said it would be a gradual weakening because waters in the area are warmer than usual because of the weather condition known as El Niño.

Scientists say El Niño is a natural weather cycle that disrupts ocean and atmospheric temperatures in the tropical Pacific. El Niño occurs every three to five years and can last up to 12 months.

Ocean water temperatures already have risen 5 to 10 degrees in some areas this year.


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