Coconut vendors try to recover their goods after they were caught unprepared when high waves dragged their beach stalls into the sea in Veracruz, Mexico, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012.
VERACRUZ, Mexico -- Ernesto weakened as it moved inland early Friday, though forecasters warned it could still dump dangerous rains in the mountains of Mexico's flood-prone southern Gulf region.
In Tabasco state, two fishermen drowned when the stormed passed through the area Thursday, Gov. Andres Granier told reporters.
Granier said the storm's strong winds ripped rooftops from several homes but residents refused to evacuate, fearing their possessions might be stolen. "People have chosen to stay in their homes and we are helping them," he said.
Ernesto came ashore near the waters dotted with oil rigs operated by the state oil company in the far southern Gulf of Mexico. The government closed its largest Gulf coast port, Veracruz, and the smaller ports of Alvarado and Coatzacoalcos.
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Coatzacoalcos, a major oil port, got seven inches of rain in the 24 hours before Ernesto's center passed just a few miles away, according to Mexico's weather service. San Pedro in the neighboring state of Tabasco had seen more than 10 inches.
About 2,000 army and navy personnel were on standby to head to inland mountains to help in rescue work if needed, said Noemi Guzman, Veracruz state civil defense director. Guzman said no flooding had been reported at any of the state's many rivers.
Ernesto was a weak hurricane when it made its first landfall late Tuesday near the cruise ship port of Mahahual in Yucatan, but it weakened as it crossed the peninsula and then spun into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday night.
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Early Friday, the storm was centered about 100 miles northwest of Oaxaca, Mexico, and moving west near 13 mph.
The U.S. hurricane center said Ernesto still had the potential to cause flooding and could produce rainfalls of up to 15 inches in some parts of the mountainous areas of Veracruz, Tabasco, Puebla and Oaxaca states before dissipating.
There were no reports of major flooding in Veracruz state and there have been only minor landslides on some roads, said Raul Zarrabal, the state's communications secretary.