Hurricane Grace losing strength after battering Mexico

The storm was forecast to weaken to a tropical depression and dissipate by early Sunday.

Hurricane Grace lashed eastern Mexico with heavy rain and strong wind on Saturday, causing flooding, power blackouts and damage to homes as it gradually lost strength over the mountainous interior.

The storm made landfall in Mexico for a second time during the night near Tecolutla in Veracruz state as a major Category Three storm, triggering warnings of mudslides and significant floods.

The streets of Tecolutla, home to about 24,000 people, were littered with fallen trees, signs and roof panels as dawn broke, television images showed.

In the Veracruz state capital, Xalapa, streets were turned into muddy brown rivers. Many homes in the region were left without electricity.

Flooding was also reported in parts of neighboring Tamaulipas state while in Puebla in central Mexico trees were toppled and buildings suffered minor damage.

Grace weakened to a tropical storm as it churned inland clocking maximum sustained winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, according to the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC).

At 1500 GMT, the storm was located 25 miles northeast of Mexico City, which was drenched by heavy rain, and moving west at 13 mph, forecasters said.

– ‘Seek refuge’ –

Grace was “weakening rapidly over land but still causing very heavy rains and flooding over portions of east-central Mexico,” the NHC said.

The storm was forecast to weaken to a tropical depression and dissipate by early Sunday, it said.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had urged residents living in places considered to be at risk to “seek refuge in high places with relatives and in shelters.”

Nearly 8,000 civil defense members, soldiers and electricity board workers were ready to tackle the aftermath of the storm, he said on Friday night.

Authorities in the state of Veracruz said they had prepared 200 storm shelters and urged residents to hunker down in safe places.

Veracruz Governor Cuitlahuac Garcia warned of the risk of flooding and mudslides as the storm dumped heavy rain on the mountainous region.

Authorities closed most highways in Veracruz, which is crossed by numerous rivers.

– Fishermen affected –

In preparation for the storm, workers along the coast boarded up windows to protect stores, fishermen brought their boats ashore and residents secured their homes after stocking up on canned food and water.

“We will spend many days without fishing — almost a week,” said Isabel Pastrana Vazquez, head of Veracruz’s federation of fisheries cooperatives.

“About 35,000 fishermen will be affected because we can’t go out. We’re going to have a swell and rain,” he said.

The hurricane had already lashed Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where more than 6,000 tourists and residents were evacuated to storm shelters earlier in the week across the southeastern state of Quintana Roo.

The storm first struck on Thursday near the town of Tulum, famed for its Mayan temples, drenching a string of Caribbean beach resorts.

The hurricane passed the Riviera Maya coastline without any loss of life, according to Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquin. 

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