Norma weakens near Mexican resort, Maria threatens Caribbean

Description of the 5 categories in the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale (AFP Photo/AFP) (AFP)

Washington (AFP) - Norma weakened to tropical storm strength Saturday as it moved in the direction of Mexico's Baja California in the Pacific, the US National Hurricane Center said, even as Tropical Storm Maria threatened the battered Leeward islands.

Norma, which had grown to hurricane strength before tapering off, was expected to weaken further over the next two days on a track that will put it near the southern Baja California peninsula Sunday and Monday.

As of 8 pm Saturday (0000 GMT Sunday), the storm was some 210 miles (335 kilometers) south of Los Cabos, packing maximum sustained winds of 65 miles (100 kilometers) per hour and pushing north at three miles (six kilometers) an hour.

Los Cabos is a popular resort area.

It triggered tropical storm warnings, meaning a tropical storm conditions within 36 hours for parts of the peninsula, as the NHC forecast up to 20 inches of rain in isolated pockets which "may produce life-threatening flash floods."

Another storm, Max, which made landfall on Mexico's Pacific coast as a Category One hurricane on Thursday night but was later downgraded, had largely dissipated as of Saturday.

It had threatened southern parts of the country including the state of Oaxaca which is still struggling to recover after it bore the brunt of the damage from the 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico only last Thursday.

Last week, Hurricane Katia battered the Atlantic coast of Mexico and later blew itself out in the center of the country without causing major damage.

At the beginning of September, Tropical Storm Lidia left seven people dead on its stormy passage through the state of Baja California.

Mexico is one of the countries most vulnerable to hurricanes because of its thousands of miles of coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific and its proximity to the hurricane belt.

Meanwhile on the Atlantic side of the region, Tropical Storm Maria was gaining strength and on track to hit hurricane strength before it nears Monday the Caribbean's Leeward islands, already battered by deadly Hurricane Irma.