Grace makes landfall in Mexico as major hurricane

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Hurricane Grace slammed into Mexico for a second time early Saturday as a major Category Three storm, threatening to bring significant flooding and mudslides, US forecasters said.

The storm made landfall near Tecolutla in Veracruz state, clocking maximum sustained winds of 125 miles (200 kilometers) per hour, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Category Three is the third highest of five levels on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

A hurricane warning was in effect for coastline stretching from Puerto Veracruz to Cabo Rojo.

"Rapid weakening is expected as Grace moves inland over the mountains of central Mexico later today," the NHC said.

Nearly 8,000 civil defense members, soldiers and electricity board workers were ready to tackle the aftermath of the storm, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wrote on Twitter.

He urged residents living in places considered to be at risk to "seek refuge in high places with relatives and in shelters."

- Highways closed -

Authorities in the state of Veracruz said they had prepared 200 storm shelters and planned to open another 2,000 if necessary.

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

Members of the Mexican armed forces were ready to deploy if needed to protect residents, said civil protection national coordinator Laura Velazquez.

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

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.

- 'Dangerous storm surge' -

The NHC warned that heavy rainfall in Mexico through the weekend "will result in significant flash and urban flooding as well as mudslides."

A "dangerous storm surge" would be accompanied by "large and destructive waves" near the coast, it 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 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. He said electricity had been almost completely restored across the state.

It then churned across the Gulf of Mexico, gathering strength as it headed for the mainland.

Authorities in Mexico City warned that the storm could also bring heavy rains to the capital over the weekend.


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