Tropical Storm Paul downgraded to a depression

Wednesday, October 25th 2006, 10:16 pm
By: News On 6

SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico (AP) _ Tropical Storm Paul weakened to a tropical depression Wednesday as it swirled toward Mexico's mainland at the tip of the Baja California peninsula.

About 100 residents who were evacuated to government shelters in Cabo San Lucas returned to their homes, relieved the sun had re-emerged and they had been spared by Paul, which earlier in the week had been the season's third hurricane to threaten the region.

By the late afternoon, Paul had maximum sustained wind speeds of 35 mph and was 110 miles southeast of Los Mochis, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

The depression was forecast to continue weakening as it moved toward mainland Mexico at 8 mph, a trajectory that would make it hit land just before midnight Wednesday. However, it could still dump as much as 10 inches of rain and spark dangerous flooding, according to the hurricane center in Miami.

On Monday, Paul neared Category 3 hurricane status, with winds reaching 110 mph.

Victims of the storm included a Baja California fisherman who died after slipping off sea-battered rocks and an American who was swept out to sea and feared drowned.

Late Tuesday night, police with flashlights and loudspeakers went door to door among the wood and tarpaper shacks in the precarious slums that perch on the edge of riverbanks and flood-prone gullies in Cabo San Lucas.

``Please evacuate. The rain is coming,'' police said through megaphones.

About 100 people were taken in the backs of pickup trucks and buses to shelters set up at public schools.

Rescue workers from the Los Cabos fire department were still searching for John Skoor, 65, of suburban Seattle, who was swept away by what witnesses described as ``an enormous wave'' while walking along the beach with his wife and sister.

``They were walking along the beach, and a wave swept them away, it battered them and swept them in. They managed to get one of the women out, but they couldn't get him,'' said city rescue worker Juan Oved. ``We're waiting to see if the waves bring him back to shore.''

The popular resorts of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are famous for deep-sea fishing, golf courses and beaches flanked by cactus-dotted deserts.