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Beatriz Weakens Back To Tropical Storm Off Mexico

Date: 22-Jun-11
Country: MEXICO
Author: Dave Graham

Beatriz Weakens Back To Tropical Storm Off Mexico Photo: REUTERS/Stringer
Cars swept into the ocean by high waves caused by the approach of Tropical Storm Beatriz are pictured by the shore in Acapulco June 20, 2011.
Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

Hurricane Beatriz weakened into a tropical storm on Tuesday, sparing tourist towns and ports along Mexico's Pacific coast from serious damage.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded what had been a Category 1 hurricane and called off all warnings by mid-day as Beatriz hovered near land and headed out to sea.

Beatriz is the second named storm of the Pacific hurricane season, following Adrian -- which also passed quietly.

Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas, the two biggest ports on the Pacific coast, reopened to large cargo ships after closing earlier on Tuesday. Each port moves around 150 barges a month.

Mexico has no major oil installations in the storm's path and state oil monopoly Pemex said none of its operations were affected by Beatriz.

The coastline is dotted with beaches popular with tourists drawn to the region's water sports and spectacular sunsets, although some surfers were not put off by heavy rains early in the day.

"The waves are bigger than normal," said local resident Mauro Irra, 18, moments before pushing his surfboard out into six-foot (two meter) ocean swells on the shores of Manzanillo in Colima state.

The rain could also bring some relief to local farmers suffering from a long dry patch, said local tourist delegate Sergio Sanchez.

But local fisherman unable to go out for their daily catch complained the hiatus would cut into their earnings.

"You really feel it when this happens," said 59-year-old Antonio Hernandez, who has been fishing the area for three-and-half decades. "I hope we'll be back out tomorrow."

The eye of the hurricane was about 95 miles southwest of Cabo Corrientes, a vacation spot near Puerto Vallarta, with sustained winds near 70 miles per hour, and was heading away from land.

Heavy rains flooded some streets and felled trees in parts of southern Guerrero state, but the U.S.-based hurricane center said strong winds and a storm surge would continue to subside.

Forecasters are expecting a rash of storms in the Atlantic this year, with some predicting at least five major hurricanes of Category 3 or stronger.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

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