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Hurricane Raymond Hovers in Pacific, Threatens Mexico with Heavy Rain

Schools were to stay closed and travel warnings were issued along Mexico's southern Pacific coast on Monday as a region still reeling from record flooding battened down the hatches against a major hurricane moving toward the shore.

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Schools were to stay closed and travel warnings were issued along Mexico's southern Pacific coast on Monday as a region still reeling from record flooding battened down the hatches against a major hurricane moving toward the shore.

Raymond, a category three hurricane, was blowing winds of up to 120 miles per hour early on Monday, more than 100 miles offshore, and forecasters said it could head west later this week without hitting land.

Nonetheless, Raymond is expected to dump heavy rains on coastal areas including Acapulco, where storms wrecked homes, roads and cars and stranded tourists last month.

The Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said Raymond, the first major hurricane of the Eastern Pacific season, was drifting northward at around 2 mph and was expected to move closer to the coast later on Monday and on Tuesday.

But forecasts suggested the hurricane would not reach land and that storm warnings may be altered, the NHC said.

Mexico has no major oil installations in the area threatened by Raymond, which has been churning around 165 miles west-southwest of Acapulco for several hours.

Late on Sunday, authorities closed schools in Acapulco as well as in the port of Lazaro Cardenas further northwest, and other parts of the southwestern coastline of Mexico.

Hurricane alerts are in place from Acapulco, which lies in Guerrero state, to Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan state, and heavy rainfall during the next few days could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, the weather service said.

Angel Aguirre, the governor of Guerrero, urged people to leave areas at high risk of flooding, and Michoacan's government said all maritime activity and road travel should be avoided.

Mexico suffered its worst floods on record in mid-September when tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid converged from the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, killing more than 150 people and causing damage estimated at around $6 billion.

Acapulco, whose economy relies heavily on tourism, saw hotel occupancy rates plunge to record lows after those storms and was only just beginning to recover.

Up to 15 cm (6 inches) of rain could hit the coast, Mexico's national meteorological service forecast.

Mexico's Gulf Coast is also facing heavy rains due to the advance of a cold front from the north, the government said.

The flooding, mudslides and displacement of thousands of people caused by the recent storms have heightened the risk of waterborne illness in Mexico. The country has recorded its first local transmission of cholera in just over a decade.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Writing by John Stonestreet; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Jackie Frank)

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