Hurricane Willa Slams Mexico’s Pacific Coast
Hurricane Willa crashed ashore in western Mexico Tuesday, lashing the Pacific coast with powerful wind, heavy rain and what forecasters warned was "extremely dangerous" storm surge.
The powerful storm, which was a maximum Category 5 hurricane on Monday, had weakened to Category 3 as it moved toward land.
But forecasters warned that even still the major storm had the potential to unleash deadly flooding and landslides.
"The eye of Hurricane Willa is now over the coastline near the town of Escuinapa, Sinaloa" state, Mexico's National Meteorological Service said on Twitter.
The US National Hurricane Center warned it was unleashing "an extremely dangerous storm surge... along portions of the coast of southwestern Mexico."
Willa first swept over the Marias islands, where Mexico has a federal prison.
The interior ministry did not respond to questions on whether it had evacuated the 1,000 inmates housed there or what other emergency measures were in place for the penal colony.
"We do not have any reports of damages there so far," the head of Mexico's emergency services, Luis Felipe Puente, told a press conference.
More than 4,250 people were evacuated from high-risk areas, including tourists who were on vacation at the beach, he said.
They are being housed in 58 temporary shelters.
At a shelter in Escuinapa, a town of 30,000 people that sits in the middle of the storm's likely path, residents fretted over their houses as they waited out the storm.
Many residents had boarded up their windows with plywood.
The Mexican army deployed troops to roll out a disaster response operation in the area.
In Mazatlan, a tranquil resort town with turquoise waters, the hotels that line the coast were largely empty as workers nailed plywood over the windows and built sandbag barriers to keep out the flood waters earlier in the day.
As the storm moved over the town, drenching it in a light but steady rain, some hardy residents even went for walks or bike rides on the oceanfront avenue, the Malecon.
Willa packed maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers (120 miles) per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.
It is expected to dump 15 to 30 centimeters (six to 12 inches) of rain on parts of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco states, with some areas getting up to 45 centimeters.
"This rainfall will cause life-threatening flash flooding and landslides," the NHC warned.
The three states had already declared an alert and cancelled school.
Mexico's Pacific coast has already been hit by deadly storms and rains this hurricane season.
In September, at least 15 people were killed when flash floods hit the states of Sinaloa and Michoacan. Last week, 11 more people died in Oaxaca, including seven children.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team