August 30, 2006

Hurricane John menaces Mexican resorts

By Chris Aspin

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Hurricane John grew into a powerful
Category 4 storm on Wednesday, threatening Mexican Pacific
resorts with heavy rain and searing winds and blowing down
trees in Acapulco.

Acapulco, home to some 1 million people, had sea surges of
up to 10 feet, said Nadya Velas, spokeswoman for the civil
protection agency in Guerrero state.

Emergency workers were on alert in Guerrero -- also home to
the resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo -- as John trekked
parallel with the coast. It packed winds close to 135 mph (215
kph), with higher gusts.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center upgraded John to
Category 4, the second-strongest hurricane grade and capable of
extensive damage if it hits the coast directly.

John was moving slowly northwest parallel to the coast
about 95 miles south of the steel-making port of Lazaro
Cardenas. A hurricane warning was in effect from Lazaro
Cardenas to Cabo Corrientes, further northwest.

"While the center of John is forecast to remain just
offshore, hurricane-force winds are still expected to reach the
coast within the warning area," the hurricane center said.

Emergency workers were most worried about Ixtapa,
Zihuatanejo and Manzanillo, which is popular with U.S. and
Canadian sailfish fishermen, as well as further up the coast in
Colima state.


Velas said civil-protection workers were on alert in
Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa although there were no plans to evacuate
for the moment. "But we are ready for any scenario."

The storm was due to shave the Baja California peninsula on
Friday, near the exclusive resort of Los Cabos which is popular
with U.S. golfers and other vacationers.

Category 4 hurricanes can destroy mobile homes, deal major
damage to lower floors of structures close to the shore. Land
lower than 10 feet above sea level may be flooded and require
massive evacuations.

"Some additional strengthening is forecast during the next
24 hours," said the U.S. center, which is predicting the storm
will be close to land near Manzanillo early Thursday.

Rainfall of 4 to 8 inches, with isolated deluges of 12
inches, was possible along the coast in the warning areas.

The U.S. hurricane center warned that rain could cause
life-threatening flash floods and mudslides over areas of
mountainous terrain.

The storm formed on Monday and became a Category 1
hurricane early on Tuesday before being upgraded two notches
inside a few hours.