Published: Wed, October 24, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

‘Life-Threatening’ Hurricane Willa Barrels Into Mexico’s Western Coast

‘Life-Threatening’ Hurricane Willa Barrels Into Mexico’s Western Coast

Hurricane Willa briefly reached category five strength on Monday, although it had been reduced to a category three storm by the time it made landfall.

It peaked as a Category 5 storm with winds of 55 miles per hour (250 kph) over the Pacific on Monday.

On Tuesday, Category 3 Hurricane Willa made landfall in western Mexico just south of the resort town of Mazatlan with 120 miles per hour winds and high waves.

"Extremely dangerous" Hurricane Willa headed toward an afternoon collision today with a stretch of Mexico's Pacific coast, its strong winds and high waves threatening high-rise resorts, surfing beaches and fishing villages.

Willa came ashore about 50 miles (80km) south-east of Mazatlan, a resort city that is home to high-rise hotels and about 500,000 people, including many USA and Canadian expatriates.

"Life-threatening storm surge, wind, and rainfall (are) spreading onshore", the USA hurricane center said.

Although Willa weakened from a Category 5 to a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale Tuesday morning, the US National Hurricane Center still warned residents that the hurricane will bring a risky storm surge, wind and rain to western Mexico.

"Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.", the hurricane center said.

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Although hotels, restaurants and stores were boarded over, people ventured onto Mazatlan's coastal boulevard to watch a spectacular sunset as the hurricane obscured the sky to the south.

"Speaking by telephone, Garcia said he had hunkered down with others in a hotel waiting for the storm to pass through the town, listening to Willa rattle buildings as it drove onwards". He and his son, who also works at the hotel, were staying on the job, though the rest of his family had left the area.

The state government's Facebook page on Tuesday says all commercial activity there must close. Federal authorities declined to comment on precautions that were taken at the prison, citing security concerns. "But not everyone wanted to leave, even though authorities made it clear that he who stays does so at his own peril".

Emergency officials said they evacuated more than 4,250 people in coastal towns and set up 58 shelters ahead of the risky Category 3 storm, which was expected to blow ashore in the evening near Mazatlan, a tourist spot of high-rise hotels and about 500,000 people, many of them USA and Canadian expatriates.

As Willa closed in, the beach in Mazatlan nearly disappeared, with waves slamming against the coastal boulevard under looming black clouds.

Downpours in Mexico prior to Willa's arrival have heightened the risk of flooding, and the NHC said the storm could drench some areas in as much as 18 inches (45 cm) of rain.

About 100 km (60 miles) up the coast in Mazatlan, with a metropolitan-area population of about 500,000, Mayor Jose Joel Boucieguez said officials prepared shelters and were closely monitoring low-lying areas. A few surfers enjoyed the big waves while the streets onshore were almost deserted except for workers boarding up windows at hotels, shops and homes. They spread out blankets along the walls and waited for the storm.

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