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Tropical storm Patricia churns off Mexico's Pacific

TROPICAL Storm Patricia edged slowly towards Mexico's Pacific Coast yesterday but US forecasters said the storm would likely veer off to sea today and pass west of Baja California peninsula.

The US National Hurricane Center said the storm's maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph (95 kph) and warned of heavy rains in the southern portions of the peninsula when the storm passes nearest late today or early tomorrow.

Patricia, the 16th named storm of in the eastern Pacific hurricane season, could grow more powerful over the next day but was not expected to reach hurricane strength, the center said.

Residents and tourists in the popular Baja tourist resort of Cabo San Lucas were taking precautions against storm damage but there was little sense that Patricia posed a significant threat.

Some farmers welcomed the possibility of rain but fretted at the damage winds could bring to young crops of vegetables and herbs.

On Monday the storm's center was about 200 miles (320 km) south of the tip of Baja California.

The Mexican government issued a tropical storm warning for the southern portion of the Baja California peninsula from the state capital of La Paz to the town of Santa Fe.

"A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 36 hours," said a statement from the Hurricane Center.

Pacific storms pose no significant threat to Mexico's large oil industry as operations are concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 2009 hurricane season has so far been relatively quiet with few storms causing major damage.


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