Hurricane Lorenzo lashes Mexico's Gulf coast

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MEXICO CITY, Sep 28 (Reuters) Hurricane Lorenzo slammed into Mexico's Gulf coast today, knocking out power to 85,000 homes and dumping heavy rains on the already waterlogged coffee-growing state of Veracruz.

TV images showed fallen trees and scattered debris in the beach town of Tecolutla where Lorenzo made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, although there were no immediate reports of deaths.

Around 100,000 people living on the coast between the port city of Tuxpan and the town of Nautla further south were evacuated to storm shelters.

The storm was not seen affecting Mexico's oil production, which is centered to the southeast of the landfall area.

Lorenzo lost force after it touched land and was downgraded to a tropical depression, its maximum winds dropping to 35 miles per hour/55 kilometers per hour, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Lorenzo knocked down three power transmission lines leaving 85,000 homes along the coast without electricity, the Federal Electricity Commission said.

The weakening storm should dissipate ''in a day or so,'' the Miami-based hurricane center said, but it could dump 5 to 10 inches/13-26 centimeters of rain over portions of east-central Mexico which could cause flash floods and mud slides.

Lorenzo was the third hurricane to hit Mexico in the last few weeks after Dean and Henriette pounded its Caribbean and Pacific coasts.

Civil protection officials in Veracruz said some 100,000 people living along the coast spent the night on camp beds in schools and public halls further inland.

Lorenzo hit the Mexican coast as the weakest grade of hurricane, packing 80 mph winds, around midnight (1030 IST).

Much of Veracruz state, especially north of Tuxpan, is flooded after weeks of relentless rain. Tuxpan is primarily a grain port but also home to a large Navy fleet.

Oil ports in the Mexican part of the Gulf of Mexico were all open to shipping, although some reported large sea swells.

The ports are east of where Lorenzo hit.

Mexico's state oil company, Pemex, saw no impact on its oil installations and, given the path of the storm, was not planning emergency measures, a company official said yesterday.

Another tropical storm, Karen, weakened as it churned through the Atlantic yesterday some 805 milest(1,295 km) east of the Windward Islands. It was expected to lose more strength as it moves northwest, missing the Caribbean.

The 2007 Atlantic storm season has generated three hurricanes, including Humberto, which startled coastal residents of Texas and Louisiana this month by unexpectedly strengthening into a hurricane before landfall, and two ferocious maximum-strength Category 5 storms.

One of the Category 5 hurricanes, Dean, swiped Jamaica and then plowed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, killing at least 27 people.

The other, Felix, tore into Central America, killing at least 130 in Nicaragua.

REUTERS AE RAI2135

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