SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico – Tropical Storm Paul weakened to a tropical depression Wednesday as it swirled toward Mexico's mainland east of the twin resorts of Los Cabos at the tip of Baja California, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
By the late afternoon, Paul had maximum sustained wind speeds of 35 mph (55 kph) and was 110 miles (180 km) southeast of Los Mochis, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
The depression was forecast to continue weakening as it moved toward mainland Mexico at 8 mph (13 kph), a trajectory that would make it hit land just before midnight Wednesday. However, it could still dump as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain, threatening dangerous flooding, according to the hurricane center in Miami.
On Monday, Paul had neared Category 3 hurricane status, with winds reaching 110 miles (175 kph) per hour. Victims of the storm included a Baja California fisherman who died after slipping off sea-battered rocks and an American who was swept out to sea and feared drowned.
About 100 residents who were evacuated to government shelters in Cabo San Lucas were heading back to their homes, relieved the sun had re-emerged and they had been spared by Paul, the third hurricane this year to threaten the region popular with Hollywood celebrities.
Tuesday night, police with flashlights and loudspeakers went door to door among the wood and tarpaper shacks in the precarious slums that perch on the edge of riverbanks and flood-prone gullies in Cabo San Lucas.
About 100 people were taken in the backs of pickup trucks and buses to shelters set up at public schools.
"I'm doing this for the safety of my family, and more than anything else, because they got me up," said construction worker Rosario Solis, 40, who was evacuated in a pickup truck along with his wife and two of his six children.
Solis was not taking any chances after his tarpaper shack was damaged in September in Hurricane John, which battered Baja California, killing five people and destroying 160 homes. That same month, Hurricane Lane threatened the resort region but ended up hitting the resort town of Mazatlan, causing relatively minor damage.
A 23-year-old Mexican fisherman died Monday after he slipped off rocks pounded by the rough sea in Todos Santos, north of Los Cabos, according to Baja California Sur state civil defense director Jose Gajon.
Rescue workers from the Los Cabos fire department were still searching Wednesday for an American, John Skoor, 65, from a suburb of Seattle, who was swept away by what witnesses described as "an enormous wave" while walking along the beach.
"They were walking along the beach, and a wave swept them away, it battered them and swept them in. They managed to get one of the women out, but they couldn't get him," said city rescue worker Juan Oved. "We're waiting to see if the waves bring him back to shore."
Skoor was apparently walking with his wife and a sister at the time of the accident.
San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are popular with sports fishermen and celebrities and famous for its deep-sea fishing, golf courses and beaches flanked by cactus-dotted deserts.