Hurricane Adrian Slams Into El Salvador

Hurricane Adrian (search) slammed into El Salvador's coast before dawn Friday, cutting off power and forcing officials to close schools and evacuate some 14,000 people. The storm quickly weakened as it raced across Central America, and no deaths directly linked to the storm were reported.

The center of the hurricane hit a stretch of coast near the capital, San Salvador, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (search) in Miami, which reported maximum sustained winds of almost 75 mph as it made landfall.

Adrian weakened quickly as it moved out of El Salvador and across Honduras at about 12 mph. By morning, its winds were down to 40 mph and the Hurricane Center said it could dissipate before reaching the Caribbean.

Adrian, the first recorded Pacific hurricane to strike El Salvador and the eastern Pacific's first tropical storm of the season, washed out roads and unleashed heavy rains that forecasters had feared could cause devastating flooding.

In Honduras, officials Friday reported some flooding, landslides that blocked some roads and the loss of some flimsy houses, but no deaths. Salvadoran media reported scattered landslides but no casualties.

"This emergency situation isn't over yet," President Tony Saca warned his country. He praised the civil defense's response.

The country's National Service for Territorial Studies reported the hurricane hit land near the port of Acajutla, about 35 miles west of the capital, San Salvador.

U.S. forecasters placed Adrian closer to Puerto La Libertad, the beach resort and seafood center closest to the capital.

Streets in La Libertad were deserted as people sought refuge in their homes after power went out and rains sprayed across an increasingly agitated surf.

"The wind is getting stronger and it's raining nonstop," Jorge Alberto Turcios, a guard at a restaurant in La Libertad, said as the storm approached. "The waves are getting higher. There's not a soul on the street."

Earlier, Saca broadcast an appeal for his citizens to obey evacuation requests.

"We understand that they are guarding their belongings, but lives are worth more than anything," he told Radio La Chevere.

Authorities evacuated about 14,000 people from low-lying coastal areas, in some cases using helicopters as waters rose. Most were taken to improvised shelters at schools, where classes were canceled.

Rivers rose in both El Salvador and in neighboring Honduras, both nations devastated by Hurricane Mitch (search) — a Caribbean storm — in 1998 that killed at least 9,000 people.

The region, where many people live in shacks clinging to sharp ravines, is particularly vulnerable to flooding and landslides.

Already one death was indirectly linked to the storm: a military pilot died Wednesday when the small plane he was ferrying from San Salvador's civilian airport to a military base as a precaution against the heavy winds crashed. Officials did not give the cause of the accident.

In neighboring Guatemala, two workers were killed in the collapse of a ditch they were digging under a light rain in the village of Caxaque, 160 miles west of Guatemala City. Local firefighters said it was unclear whether the collapse was related to the rains.