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Nora weakens, but heavy rains threaten U.S.

Flooding September 25, 1997
Web posted at: 5:21 p.m. EDT (1721 GMT)

SAN QUINTIN, Mexico (CNN) -- Hurricane Nora was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday hours after it swept ashore, pounding Baja California, Mexico, with high winds and heavy rain. The storm then churned toward the southwestern United States, where residents braced for possible flooding.

Nora hit land with winds up to 80 mph (128 kph) early Thursday morning near Punta Eugenia, about midway down the Baja peninsula. Sea swells up to 12 feet high slammed the coast at Bahia Tortugas, a village on Punta Eugenia.

Its winds were later clocked at 70 mph (112 kph), making it a tropical storm instead of a hurricane. A hurricane has winds greater than 74 mph (118 kph).

Hurricane Nora
Time2 p.m. PDT/5 p.m. EDT
Locationnear Yuma, Arizona
Lat./Lon.32.7 N latitude, 114.8 W longitude
Max. Windsnear 45 mph (75 kph)
SpeedNorth near 26 mph (43 kph)
Current radar image                 Current satellite image

The storm was expected to move north up the Gulf of California, further weakening as it approached southern Arizona. Meteorologists said Nora would still be a tropical storm when it entered the United States -- a rarity for the desert Southwest.

sandbags

Meteorologists warned of flash flooding, saying cascading rains could cause homes, roads and bridges to be wiped out. Rain was forecast from the Southern California coast, north into Nevada and possibly southern Utah, and as far east as western Colorado and western New Mexico.

"The biggest threat of course is flash flooding. This is a very wet storm. It's going to drop a lot of rain," said Josh McDowell of the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

In Seal Beach, California, storm-surge waves crashed onto the beachfront just south of Long Beach Thursday morning, dumping water into about 20 homes. Some residents were seen canoeing along flooded city streets.

flooded parking lot

In Yuma, Arizona, forecasters predicted up to 8 inches (20 cm) of rain, double the area's average annual rainfall. Arizona Gov. Jane Hull sent National Guard trucks, generators and trailers carrying portable water to Yuma. The Red Cross sent a disaster team.

Crews worked to fill sandbags Thursday as residents of the city of 64,000 prepared for heavy rains. Officials also warned against traveling in the rain.

"Never, ever under any circumstances drive into an areas of the road you can not see," said Mike Walsh of the Tucson/Pima County Office of Emergency Management.

 
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