Hurricane Willa Strengthens to Category 5 Storm, Aims for Mexico’s Pacific Coast

Hurricane Willa Strengthens to Category 5 Storm, Aims for Mexico’s Pacific Coast

Hurricane Willa Strengthens to Category 5 Storm, Aims for Mexico’s Pacific Coast

In its latest advisory, issued at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT), the US -based National Hurricane Center said Willa was "expected to produce life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall over portions of west-central and southwestern Mexico". It was moving north-northeast at 6 miles per hour (9 kph).

An intensifying, newly formed Hurricane Willa is expected to develop into a major hurricane by Monday morning as it approaches Mexico's Pacific Coast, threatening Manzanillo and Mazatlan. An aircraft with the Air Force Reserve's Hurricane Hunters was forced to turn around Monday over concerns for its onboard equipment after a lightning bolt from one of Willa's outer rain bands blasted it, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Just to the south of Hurricane Willa, Tropical Storm Vicente was forecast to weaken to a tropical depression Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Hurricane Willa, now in the eastern Pacific, is on a path toward Mexico's Pacific coast.

Late Monday, Willa was centered about 85 miles (140 kilometers) southwest of the Islas Marias and 195 miles (310 kilometers) south-southwest of Mazatlan.

The storm has 155 miles per hour winds after slightly weakening from a Category 5 storm with 160 miles per hour winds. Landfall on mainland Mexico is expected Tuesday afternoon or evening.

Hurricane-force winds extended 35 miles (55 kilometres) from the storm's core, and tropical storm-force winds were up to 125 miles (205 kilometres) out.

Forecasters warn the storm will bring life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall to parts of western Mexico. In addition to the damage from sustained winds, flooding and storm surges could cause damage all along the coast.

Alberto Hernandez, head of the SMN, said the storm would probably be a Category 4 or 3 hurricane when it reached land, and could cause waves several meters (feet) high. Tropical Storm Vicente is also expected to impact the country Tuesday, but farther south than Walla, and the weakening system may dissipate by the time it gets there, the National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane centre said 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimetres) of rain should fall - and some places could see up to 18 inches (45 centimetres) - on parts of western Jalisco, western Nayarit and southern Sinaloa states.

This year is now tied with 1992 for the second largest number of major hurricanes in a single Northeast Pacific season.

The ocean waters off the western coast of Mexico are running 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit above average for late October.

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