Tropical Storm Paul weakens near Mexico; Rafael to miss Bermuda

MEXICO CITY Wed Oct 17, 2012 2:49am EDT

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Paul weakened rapidly as it skirted a sparsely populated area of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, while Hurricane Rafael was moving past Bermuda in the Atlantic, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Tuesday.

Paul, formerly a Category 1 hurricane, churned about 85 miles west-southwest of Loreto and was expected to keep moving along the peninsula's coast through Wednesday, the center said in a public advisory.

The storm was moving north at 12 miles per hour, with maximum wind speeds of 60 mph, and was expected to weaken below tropical storm strength on Wednesday, the center added.

Mexico has no important oil installations along its Pacific coast.

The Mexican navy said on Tuesday it had received no requests for help during visits by navy personnel to Cabo San Lucas.

The U.S. center said Paul could cause dangerous coastal waves and possible flash floods.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Santa Fe north to El Pocito on the country's western Baja Peninsula as well as on the eastern coast of Baja from San Evaristo to Bahia San Juan Bautista, the center said.

The storm did not hit the tourist resort of Los Cabos on the southern tip of the peninsula.

Mexico's Communications and Transportation Ministry said that among the country's major 18 Pacific ports, the only closure was at the port of San Carlos, where a small federal electricity commission installation is located.

The remainder of the Pacific ports, including industrial hub Manzanillo, remained open as of 4 p.m. Tuesday local time.

On Tuesday afternoon four smaller ports were closed on both sides of Comondu, where locals fish for shrimp, tuna and sardines.

Mexico's Baja California state has 637,000 residents, according to the country's 2010 census.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Rafael, a Category 1 hurricane, churned toward Bermuda on Tuesday, but was beginning to move away from the British island territory and out into open sea on Tuesday night.

Rafael was centered 135 miles east of Bermuda and moving north-northeast at 29 mph. It had top sustained winds of 85 mph.

The Bermuda Weather Service discontinued its tropical storm warning for the island.

(Reporting By Lizbeth Diaz, Michael O'Boyle and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City and Kevin Gray in Miami; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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