Willa roars over Mexico prison island, heads for resort area

How a Pacific hurricane will impact Houston this week

How a Pacific hurricane will impact Houston this week

The storm was rapidly losing punch over northern Mexico and was down to tropical depression status before dawn, with maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour (55 kph) - down from its Category 5 peak of 155 miles per hour (250 kph) over the Pacific on Monday.

"At this time, it looks like this storm will bring a general 1-2 inches of rain and a period of 40- to 50-mph wind gusts to the coast, and there will be some sort of wet snow over the interior", AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek said.

Willa, a Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale was one of the most powerful hurricanes to enter Mexico from the Pacific in recent years.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm's forward movement had sped up to 17 miles per hour (28 kph) late Tuesday and it was expected to rapidly weaken.

The center of Hurricane Willa and the storm's hurricane-force winds were nearly ashore, but first ravaging waves were battering the coast in Nayarit and Sinaloa states, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

The hurricane center said Willa was expected to rapidly weaken overnight.

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

Almost 102,000 homes in Sinaloa lost electricity after the storm made landfall, the head of the state electricity company said on Twitter.

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Forecasters are concerned about storm surge and rainfall.

Part of the hurricane warning area is in Nayarit.

"This rainfall will cause life-threatening flash flooding and landslides", the NHC warned.

The federal government issued a decree of "extraordinary emergency" for 19 municipalities in Nayarit and Sinaloa states. "This would bring significant amounts of rain and wind Saturday and Sunday in cities like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston". Rain from Willa continued to fall across 10 Mexican states after the cyclone was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Southwest Airlines canceled all flights at Puerto Vallarta's global airport. Mazatlan is a popular vacation spot and home to a large number of American and Canadian expatriates.

Authorities earlier rushed to evacuate low-lying areas and set up shelters as the "extremely dangerous" Hurricane Willa was expected to make landfall along a stretch of Mexico's Pacific coast dotted with high-rise resorts, surfing beaches and fishing villages.

Houston is used to keeping an eye on the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season, but this week, the attention will focus on a hurricane from the Pacific Ocean.

Hurricane-force winds extended 55km from Willa's centre, and tropical storm-force winds were felt up to 185km out.

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