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Oct. 8, 2003

Tropical Depression Olaf weakens after moving inland

> Nora advisory l Nora forecast track
> Olaf advisory l Olaf forecast track
> Larry advisory l Larry forecast track
> National Hurricane Center
 

Associated Press

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico — Tropical Storm Olaf weakened to a depression Tuesday as it drifted northward after dumping heavy rains but doing little damage to resort cities along Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Olaf’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 30 mph, down from the 50 mph reached earlier Tuesday after regaining strength temporarily.

The storm was expected to continue losing strength and eventually to dissipate as it moved over land.

Olaf was located Tuesday night about 75 miles east-southeast of Tepic in the coastal state of Nayarit and was traveling north-northwest at 8 mph.

Tropical Depression Nora also continued to lose strength as it headed toward the mouth of the Gulf of California near the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, a region still recovering from two hurricanes in recent weeks. The former hurricane’s winds had diminished to 35 mph Tuesday.

In southern Chiapas state, meanwhile, officials searched for several people reported missing, while residents evacuated homes damaged by intense flooding caused by the remains of Tropical Storm Larry.

Larry hit land at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico early Sunday and faded to a tropical depression, but not before dumping about 9 inches (23 cms) of rain in 24 hours on the Chiapas capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Water rose3 feet high in some homes. Hundreds of residents spent Tuesday night in public shelters.

Maria Gonzales of Tuxtla’s San Jose neighborhood said her home was a total loss after flood waters arrived.

“We couldn’t do anything,” Gonzales said. “It was preferable to leave in time and leave everything, before my children died. Now we don’t have anything.”

In central Hidalgo state, meanwhile, two people were hospitalized after their car was buried by a mudslide caused by heavy rains. Six deaths have been reported in that state in recent weeks and hundreds of homes have been damaged from weeks of heavy rains.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami had warned of strong rain, winds and waves in Olaf’s path, but streets, buildings and trees in Puerto Vallarta appeared virtually untouched by the storm.

Rural areas outside the city were hit harder by heavy rains that rushed through arroyos, cut down crops, and flooded homes in the village of Colorado where 30 people were evacuated to a church on high ground.

Officials had opened shelters in Puerto Vallarta and warned foreign hotel guests to stay inside during the brunt of the storm. But Olaf clearly lacked the fury of Hurricane Kenna, which heavily damaged Puerto Vallarta’s picturesque waterfront a year ago.

“It was nothing, certainly not when compared to what happened with Kenna,” said Arturo Vasquez Serrano, manager of the San Marino hotel. “We’ve had some rains but nothing all that strong ... and now Puerto Vallarta can continue functioning the way it was before Olaf arrived.”

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