Hurricane Otis weakens to tropical storm

Otis weakened to tropical-storm status Sunday as it moved north on a track that could brush an unpopulated stretch of the Baja California Peninsula, while Tropical Storm Stan crossed the Yucatan peninsula, heading for open Gulf waters.

No immediate reports of damages or injuries were received in connection with either storm, officials in the states of Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo said. Otis, once a category-one hurricane, weakened to windspeeds of about 45 mph (70 kph) by Sunday. A tropical storm warning was in effect for a stretch of coast from Bahia Magdalena to Agua Blanca.

Otis was swirling about 155 miles (245 kms) west of the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, and was expected to cross over a relatively unpopulated stretch of coast about 300 miles (500 kms) north of the resort of Cabo San Lucas sometime Monday. A tropical storm warning remained in effect from Cabo San Lucas north to Loreto.

In the fishing town of San Carlos, the Baja settlement closest tot he storm, intermittent rains were falling and the local shrimp fleet was tied up at dock. Officials in Baja California Sur state said about 500 people were at shelters around Los Cabos as a precaution while the storm passed, but that many had returned to their homes as Otis weakened.

Friday night and Saturday, more than 1,000 people had fled their homes as rains from the storm's outer bands sparked flooding in the poor outskirts of Cabo San Lucas, where many homes are little more than wooden shacks. The resort's hotels escaped major flooding, but some evacuations were carried out further north on the islands of Magdalena and Margarita.

The storm was moving northward at about 7 mph (10 kph), on a path that could take it across the peninsula, into mainland northwestern Mexico and almost to the U.S. border as a tropical depression later in the week. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Stan formed before dawn Sunday and then plowed into a marshy stretch of land about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of the resort Tulum.

Stan could re-emerge into the Gulf of Mexico by Monday, where it was projected to gather strength again and possibly become a hurricane. Stan was moving inland west-northwest across the Yucatan peninsula at about 12 mph (19 kph) with winds of about 40 mph (65 kph), and by mid-Sunday was located about 50 miles (85 kms) southeast of the Yucatan state port of Progreso.

The storm was expected to dump up to 15 inches of rain in some areas of the Yucatan peninsula and Belize. Otis was the 15th Pacific storm of the season. Unlike powerful Atlantic storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Pacific hurricanes tend to do less damage because they make landfall less-frequently. Like their counterparts in the Atlantic, Pacific storms are given names that correspond to the alphabet, starting with the letter, AP reports.

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