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Cancun Cleans Up After Claudette

Tropical Storm Claudette dumped heavy rains, sunk small boats and whipped waves into a frenzy but did little damage Friday to this popular resort city before losing strength and heading to the Gulf of Mexico.

Claudette never became a hurricane as predicted and its winds diminished considerably, from 70 mph to 50 mph, with higher gusts, after it brushed the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. The storm's strength was expected to change little through Saturday afternoon.

The storm, centered about 95 miles northwest of Cancun, was moving toward the northwest about 12 mph and was expected to arrive in the southern Gulf of Mexico later Friday.

Forecasters had said Claudette could strengthen at some point after entering the Gulf and warned authorities from Cuba to Texas to take precautions. In Texas, the BP company evacuated nonessential employees from oil and gas platforms along the Gulf of Mexico, but the company had not shut down production, a spokesman said.

Tropical storm warnings remained in effect Friday for the Yucatan Peninsula's northern and eastern coasts, where Claudette still posed the threat of heavy rains, high winds and elevated tides, Mexico's National Meteorological Service said.

Early Friday, Claudette battered Cancun's high-rise hotels with high winds and flooded several streets but largely spared the city, where everyday life resumed Friday almost without skipping a beat.

Cancun's international airport was operating normally after closing for several hours at the height of the storm overnight. Some flights were delayed Friday but there were no cancellations, said Cancun airport authority official Jorge Pat.

As city employees cleaned storm drains clogged with minor debris and hotel workers transferred lounge chairs and sun umbrellas from emergency storage back to the beach, undaunted residents traversed deep pockets of water on bicycles and shopkeepers opened their doors on time.

"The weather didn't put a damper on anything," said Rusty Watterson, 44, of Apple Grove, W.Va., as he rolled up the legs of his jeans and waded with his wife, Donna, and 7-year-old daughter, Morgan, through a large puddle at the entrance of the Plaza Caracol indoor mall.

Claudette is the third tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It developed Tuesday in the Caribbean, brushing Jamaica's southern coast with heavy rain and rough surf, battering the Cayman Islands with dangerous waves and above-normal tides and scattering rain over parts of Cuba before arriving in Mexico.

Experts have predicted a busy Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

By Morgan Lee

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