Hurricane Willa intensifies as 'life-threatening' storm on path to Mexico

The storm was about 390 kilometres southwest of Manzanillo Mexico early Sunday

The storm was about 390 kilometres southwest of Manzanillo Mexico early Sunday

Hurricane Willa, an "extremely dangerous" storm heading to Mexico's Pacific coast, was upgraded to Category 4 by the National Hurricane Center late Sunday.

Willa could "produce life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall over portions of southwestern and west-central Mexico beginning on Tuesday", the center said. As of 11 a.m. ET., Willa had maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour - just 3 miles per hour over the threshold for a Category 5.

Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 105 miles.

Even at Category 4, Willa is "extremely dangeorus", forecasters warned, adding that it was likely to strengthen slightly into a Category 5 Monday morning.

The center said Willa was about 175 miles south-southwest of Las Islas Marias, Mexico, and some 135 miles southwest of Cabo Corrientes, Mexico, and was moving north at about 7 mph.

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An estimated total rainfall between 5 inches and 15 inches (12.5 cm to 38.1 cm) could drench the states of Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa, where the beach resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan are.

The NHC said "a unsafe storm surge" was also likely to affect coastal areas by Tuesday evening, adding that rain and strong winds would be accompanied by "large destructive waves".

Hurricane force winds are forecast to impact areas in San Blas to Mazatlan, including Las Islas Marias late Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Vicente, which formed the day before in the Pacific off southern Mexico, showed signs of weakening and it lingered 230 miles (370 km) southeast of Acapulco. A tropical storm warning is also in effect from Playa Perula to San Blas.

"While some weakening is forecast by tonight and Tuesday, Willa is expected to be a unsafe hurricane when it reaches the coast of Mexico late Tuesday or early Wednesday", it said. The NHC says this rainfall will cause storm surge and "life-threatening flash flooding and landslides".

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