Hurricane Willa has grown rapidly into an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 storm in the eastern Pacific, on a path to smash into Mexico’s western coast between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta by Wednesday.
Willa has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph) — a faster windspeed than Hurricane Michael had at landfall in Florida — though it’s projected to weaken somewhat before hitting land late Tuesday. It is still likely to be an extremely dangerous hurricane when it hits.
The governments of Sinaloa and Nayarit states ordered coastal region schools to close on Monday and began preparing emergency shelters ahead of the onslaught.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said, while Willa was still just below Category 5 status, that the storm could “produce life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall over portions of southwestern and west-central Mexico beginning on Tuesday.”
A hurricane warning was posted for Mexico’s western coast between San Blas and Mazatlan, including the Islas Marias, a nature reserve and federal prison directly in the forecast track of the storm.
Tropical storm warnings ranged from Playa Perula north to San Blas and from Mazatlan north to Bahia Tempehuaya. The center said Willa is expected make landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
By Monday morning, Willa was centered about 135 miles (215 kilometers) south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes. It was moving north at 7 mph (11 kph).
The hurricane center said 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain should fall — and some places could see up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) — on parts of western Jalisco, western Nayarit and southern Sinaloa states. It warned of the danger of flash flooding and landslides in mountainous areas.
Farther to the south, Tropical Storm Vicente weakened but was still expected to produce heavy rainfall and flooding over parts of southern and southwestern Mexico.
By early Monday, its core was about 195 miles (310 kilometers) southeast of Acapulco with top sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph). The hurricane center said it could produce 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 centimeters) of rain in parts of Guerrero, Michoacan, Colima and Jalisco states.