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Hurricane Lane pummels Mexico's Pacific coast, weakens

MAZATLÁN, Mexico -- Hurricane Lane slammed into a sparsely populated stretch of the Pacific coast south of the city of Culiacán yesterday after battering the resort of Mazatlán with strong winds and rain.

The storm, which hit land at Category 3 strength, flooded streets, forced the airport to cancel flights, and knocked out power in parts of Mazatlán, a resort and retirement community popular with Americans. It forced officials to cancel the traditional Independence Day parade. After it made landfall, the National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded it to a Category 1 storm.

Residents in low-lying areas of Mazatlán and Culiacán were evacuated, and officials set up shelters for those who were displaced.

At 8 last night, Lane was centered about 30 miles southeast of Culiacán and 110 miles northwest of Mazatlán. It was moving north at 9 miles per hour and had maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour.

The storm was expected to hit Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa state and a center for the region's booming agriculture and food-processing industry. The city of 750,000 is also notorious as the hometown of several of Mexico's top drug traffickers.

Earlier, the hurricane took an unexpected turn toward the mainland and caught Mazatlán off guard. Many awoke to strong winds and a pounding rain. Previous projections had Lane heading toward the Baja California peninsula.

Earlier this week, rains lashed coastal towns to the south, causing a landslide that killed a 7-year-old boy Thursday in Acapulco and flooding across western Mexico that forced hundreds of people from their homes.

Meanwhile yesterday, Tropical Storm Miriam formed way out in the Pacific , southwest of Baja California , the National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasters said there was a slight chance it would turn toward land later in the week and hit a sparsely populated section of the peninsula's coastline.

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