MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Hurricane Rick weakened to a category three storm on Monday but weather officials issued a hurricane watch for Mexico's southern Baja California region as it closed in on the peninsula.
Rick had been a category five storm -- the most powerful on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale -- with 175 mph (281 kmh) winds during the weekend before being downgraded.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT) its sustained winds were clocked at 125 mph (205 kmh) as it churned about 380 miles south-southwest of the popular resort of Cabo San Lucas.
The storm was moving to the northwest at 10 mph (17 kmh) and was expected to build speed. Its center was expected to be nearing Southern Baja California late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
The Mexican government issued a hurricane watch for the target area. Even though Rick was expected to weaken further, forecasters said it still would be a dangerous hurricane as it neared the peninsula.
Rick is the seventh hurricane of the eastern north Pacific season. Pacific storms pose no threat to Mexico's large oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico but the Baja California peninsula is popular with U.S. tourists for its resorts in the Los Cabos area.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott, Editing by Bill Trott)