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Mexico Braces for Hurricane Lester

October 18, 1998

HUATULCO, Mexico (AP) _ Two hurricanes threatened Mexico’s Pacific coast Saturday, prompting the government to evacuate 3,000 people and deploy soldiers to areas in the path of swirling winds and heavy rain.

About 500 families in the state of Oaxaca were asked to leave their homes because of fears of flash floods from Hurricane Lester churning offshore, the state’s Civil Protection Secretariat reported.

It’s the second straight year that a hurricane has threatened the Oaxaca coast in southeastern Mexico. Hurricane Pauline made landfall last year at Huatulco and later hit the resort of Acapulco, unleashing floods that killed at least 150 people.

Farther north, Hurricane Madeleine bore down on Mexico’s western Pacific coast, prompting Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo to send 2,000 troops to the area to aid residents if the hurricane makes landfall.

Madeleine was upgraded to a hurricane late Saturday when sustained winds reached about 75 mph. Madeline, moving northeast at about 7 mph, was about 90 miles southwest of Cabo Corrientes on Saturday afternoon.

That storm prompted authorities to issue a hurricane warning for a 300-mile stretch of coast from Melaque to Mazatlan, an area that includes the resort of Puerto Vallarta. The Interior Secretariat said Madeline could make landfall about 65 miles north of Puerto Vallarta.

As Lester whirled off the coast of Oaxaca, authorities set up about 500 shelters along the coast in case flooding forces more from their homes. Five to 10 inches of rain were predicted, with much larger amounts in mountainous areas over the weekend, forecasters said.

The storm already is blamed for a mudslide in Guatemala that killed two children.

Lester carried 100 mph winds and was located about 60 miles south of Puerto Angel in the state of Oaxaca, 300 miles southeast of Mexico City, the National Weather Service in Miami reported.

It was moving northwest at about 7 mph on a track that roughly parallels the coast, but the weather service said a slight turn to the north would send the core of the hurricane inland.

A hurricane warning was declared for a wide stretch of the southern coast from Salina Cruz to the resort city of Acapulco. A hurricane watch extended as far west as Zihuatenejo.

Mexico’s Interior Secretariat predicted that Lester would continue to parallel the coast and possibly hit land near Zihuatenejo, about 350 miles northwest of its current position.