Willa weakens to tropical storm, torrential rain to continue

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Willa began losing power overnight after roaring over a stretch of beach towns, fishing villages and farms on the Pacific coast of Mexico's Sinaloa state as a Category 3 storm.Damage assessments were scanty during the night because of darkness and poor communications, but federal officials said power had been knocked out in some spots and there were early reports of flimsy structures with tin roofs sustaining damage. Emergency officials said they evacuated more than 4,250 people in coastal towns and set up 58 shelters ahead of the risky Category 3 storm.

Forecasters said the hurricane could bring six to 12 inches (15 to 30cm) of rain - with up to 18in (45cm) in some places - to parts of Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa states, with flash flooding and landslides possible in mountainous areas. It's heading to the north-northeast at 10 miles per hour (17kph), barreling toward a stretch of land south of the beach resort city.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm rapidly lost force and dissipated over northern Mexico Wednesday morning.

A man looks at the sea along the Mazatlan boardwalk as Hurricane Willa approaches the Pacific beach resort on October 23, 2018.

Thousands of people have been evacuated, and buildings boarded up in preparation for the potential effects of the storm in coastal towns in its path.

Willa, once a Category 5 hurricane, had weakened, but it still had sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kilometers per hour). Farther south, 12 people died due to heavy rains from Tropical Storm Vicente, which formed off the southern coast of Guatemala last weekend and continues to move northwest.

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Willa came ashore about 50 miles southeast of Mazatlan, a resort city with high-rise hotels and about 500,000 people, many of them USA and Canadian expatriates.

The US National Hurricane Centre said that the eye of the risky Category three storm was about to make landfall, and little variation in strength was expected beforehand. A decree of "extraordinary emergency" has been set for 19 municipalities in Nayarit and Sinaloa states.

The storm also battered the Islas Marias, a group of Mexican islands about 100km off the mainland that include a nature preserve and a federal prison. So far, there are hurricane warnings from San Blas, east of the Panama Canal, to Mazatlan along the western Mexican coastline.

There will likely be widespread tree damage, power outages and structural damage near Willa's landfall location in west-central Mexico.

About 100 km (60 miles) up the coast in Mazatlan, with a metropolitan-area population of about 500,000, Mayor Jose Joel Boucieguez said officials prepared shelters and were closely monitoring low-lying areas. American Airlines has canceled its flights in Mazatlán, about 275 miles to the north.