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Hurricane Blanca downgraded to tropical storm

    Workers board over store front windows in preparation for Hurricane Blanca, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on Sunday.
    The unpredictable Blanca, which strengthened suddenly from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm on Saturday before weakening slightly, is expected to make landfall as a tropical storm on Monday. But authorities said its outer bands could start hitting the southern Baja California Peninsula as a hurricane on Sunday.

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico » Hurricane Blanca was downgraded to a tropical storm Sunday as it neared the Baja California Peninsula, where residents boarded up home and storefront windows in preparation for the heavy rains and high winds that were forecast to lash a wide area including the resorts of Los Cabos.

After building into a powerful Category 4 hurricane on Saturday, Blanca quickly lost strength the following day. It was expected to pass to the west of the peninsula’s southern tip, moving near or along its southwestern coastline at night and on Monday.

But with memories still fresh from Hurricane Odile, which battered ramshackle homes, stores and luxury hotels when it made a direct hit on Los Cabos as a Category 3 storm in September, authorities put thousands of troops on alert and issued maritime warnings.

Locals nailed down roofs and dragged food stands in from the beach in Cabo San Lucas, even as some tourists strolled the sand taking pictures of the cloudy skies and rising surf. Gusty winds whipped the tops of palm trees.

James Kicklighter, a Los Angeles film writer and director vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, said the wind was rattling windows and doors at his hotel, which took safety precautions including closing the beach and pools, taking down light fixtures and artworks, and suspending alcohol and restaurant service.

Kicklighter said hotel workers advised him to close the curtains in his room and move the dresser to brace the glass doors to the patio.

"I’m not feeling very nervous at this point with the constant downgrades, but I have a healthy respect for hurricanes growing up with family in Florida," he said via email. "People here are excited to ride it out, taking a lot of selfies."

Mexico’s National Water Commission warned of strong winds, lightning, up to 20-foot surf and "extraordinary rainfall," with possible localized accumulations of 10 inches or more in Baja California Sur state, which is home to Los Cabos.

Los Cabos Civil Protection director Wenceslao Pettit said conditions were calm and the area had begun to experience light rains associated with Blanca. He added that no evacuations were being carried out, although nine emergency shelters had been readied, and the port was closed to small watercraft.

Blanca’s maximum sustained winds decreased Sunday evening to 70 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The storm’s center was about 100 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas and moving north-northwest at 10 mph.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Loreto to Punta Abreojos, including Cabo San Lucas. A hurricane watch for parts of the peninsula was discontinued.

Some high-end hotels in Los Cabos that suffered severe damage from Odile have still not reopened as they continue to undergo repairs and remodeling.

Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Mexico City contributed.

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