UPDATE 2-Hurricane Bud weakens off Mexico's Pacific coast

Fri May 25, 2012 4:41pm EDT

Related Topics

* Mexico's largest Pacific port closed

* Bud brings rains, overcast skies on coast

* No major oil installations in storm's path (Updates strength, location)

By David Alire Garcia

MANZANILLO, Mexico, May 25 (Reuters) - Hurricane Bud weakened as it churned closer to Mexico's coast on Friday, but brought heavy rains and strong winds that downed trees and closed schools and a major Pacific shipping port.

The first hurricane of the 2012 season, Bud will hit the coast between the port city of Manzanillo and the tourist town of Puerto Vallarta later on Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

It weakened to a Category 1 storm during the day, packing winds of 75 mph (120 kph).

Downpours and wind gusts whipped through Manzanillo, knocking over trees and sending at least three families into emergency shelters.

Local officials said the municipality of Manzanillo had space for 15,000 people if more evacuations were needed.

"I am worried, but not scared. There is a lot of work to be done," Mayor Rosario Yeme said in Manzanillo, where she was coordinating with emergency services before the storm's landfall.

Authorities shut schools in Manzanillo and several other towns on the Pacific coast.

Last October, Hurricane Jova hit in almost the same area, causing at least four deaths and destroying infrastructure and houses in towns near the port.

Mexico has no significant oil installations on the Pacific coast.

"I am nervous," said 31-year-old Alma Rodriguez, who works at a clothing shop geared toward tourists in Manzanillo's commercial center. "But this is not as bad as the last storm. Everything is pretty calm," she said.

PORT CLOSED

Manzanillo port, which ships cars, cattle, metals and tequila to Asian and U.S. markets, was closed on Friday morning. The terminal handles about 9 percent of Mexico's cargo, also importing containers of manufactured goods.

Businessman Ruben Alamo expected port operations would resume by the weekend.

"The storm will affect imports and exports, but only minimally," said Alamo, who owns a construction company and represents a regional construction business association.

Bud was about 75 miles (120 km) west of Manzanillo on Friday afternoon.

Mexico's government issued a hurricane watch along the coast from Punta San Telmo to east of Manzanillo.

After hitting land, the hurricane is expected turn back around into the Pacific as a tropical storm by Saturday.

"Although continued weakening is forecast today, Bud could still bring hurricane-force winds to the coast," the center said in an advisory.

Bud could soak the states of Michoacan, Colima and Jalisco and southern Nayarit with 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) of rain.

In some places, the storm could dump as much as 15 inches (38 cm) of rain, threatening life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the center said.

Most of Mexico's oil platforms and exporting ports are in the Gulf of Mexico and affected by storms in the Atlantic, where forecasters are expecting a "near-normal" hurricane season this year with up to 15 tropical storms and four to eight hurricanes. (Additional reporting by Michael O'Boyle and Ioan Grillo in Mexico City; Writing by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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