Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MEXICO CITY — Hurricane Jova barreled towards Mexico on Tuesday and was expected to slam into the Pacific coast later in the day, bringing high winds, heavy rains and the risk of devastating mudslides.

Mexican authorities have placed four southern coastal states on high alert ahead of the expected arrival of the category three storm.

The Miami-based US National Hurricane Center said in a 0900 GMT bulletin that Jova was packing maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour and was 235 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of the busy port city of Manzanillo, in Colima state. It was moving north-northeast at 9 km/h (6 mph).

"The center of the hurricane will be near the coast of Mexico in the hurricane warning area by this afternoon or evening," the NHC said, adding it expected the storm to reach the coast at "near major hurricane strength."

Mexico has issued hurricane alerts for large swaths of the Pacific coast.

The zone stretched north from the port of Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan for almost 480 kilometers (298 miles), encompassing the popular tourist cape of Cabo Corrientes in Jalisco, Mexico's meteorological institute said.

Colima, Jalisco, Michoacan and Nayarit state to the north were all put on guard for possible landslides from heavy rain expected to be dumped by the ninth Pacific hurricane of the season.

"A dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding near and to the east of where the center makes landfall," the NHC warned.

The surge, said the hurricane center, "will be accompanied by large and destructive waves" as well as torrential rainfall with accumulations of up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) in some areas.

"These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides over mountainous terrain," the NHC said.

Several major storms or hurricanes have buffeted Mexico's Pacific coast in recent months but most have remained offshore.

The season's first named storm, Arlene, left at least 16 people dead and drenched much of the country in July.

Tropical storms and hurricanes last year caused flooding and mudslides in Mexico that killed 125 people, left hundreds of thousands homeless and caused more than $4 billion in damage.

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