'Extremely Threatening' Hurricane Willa Heads For Mexico's Pacific Coast

Hurricane Willa as seen from NOAA's GOES East satellite on Sunday Oct. 21 2018.                        NOAA

Hurricane Willa as seen from NOAA's GOES East satellite on Sunday Oct. 21 2018. NOAA

Hurricane Willa is now a "potentially catastrophic" category 5 tropical storm expected to bring life-threatening storm surge, wind and rain to central and southwestern Mexico.

By early Monday, Willa had maximum sustained winds of 249 km/h and was centred about 370 kilometres south of Las Islas Marias and 280 kilometres south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes.

Forecasters said Willa would then blow ashore in the afternoon or evening along a 140-mile (220-kilometre) stretch extending from the resort town of Mazatlan to San Blas.

Hurricane Patricia went from a Category 5 to Category 4 when it made landfall, but at its peak, Patricia had winds of 215 miles per hour and was the strongest hurricane or typhoon ever observed anywhere on the planet.

Almost three years ago to the day, Hurricane Patricia, one of the most powerful storms on record, struck Mexico's Pacific coast with winds that tore down trees, moved cars and forced thousands of people to flee homes.

Further south, Tropical Storm Vicente has weakened but is still expected to bring heavy rainfall and flooding to parts of southern and southwestern Mexico.

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Willa is the third Category 5 hurricane to spin up in the eastern Pacific Ocean this year, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach.

The hurricane was expected to pass over or near the Islas Marias - a set of islands about 60 miles (96 kilometres) offshore that include a nature preserve and a federal prison - early Tuesday.

It said the storm could produce unsafe storm surge, while dumping 5 to 10 inches (12.5 to 25 centimetres) of rain across parts of western Jalisco, western Nayarit and southern Sinaloa states, with lesser amounts falling as it moves inland.

The storm's rate of intensification has been extreme, climbing from a 40 mph tropical storm to a 155 mph hurricane in just 48 hours between Saturday and Monday (and from 100 to 160 mph in the most recent 24 hours).

Rainfall of between six and 12 inches are expected to drench western Jalisco, western Nayarit, and southern Sinaloa. Flash-flooding and landslides should be expected. Tropical storm warnings ranged from Playa Perula north to San Blas and from Mazatlan north to Bahia Tempehuaya.

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