Hurricane Jova bore down on the Pacific coast of Mexico Tuesday threatening to pound one of the country’s busiest cargo ports and tourist resorts with destructive waves, heavy rainfall and flooding.
The Category 3 storm, with top winds reaching 115 miles per hour [185 km/h], was about 130 miles (208 kms] southwest of the port city of Manzanillo at 8 a.m. EDT, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The Miami-based hurricane center said some fluctuations were possible in the storm’s strength but they expected Jova to slam into the Mexican coast as a major hurricane.
Jova will make landfall Tuesday afternoon or evening to the northwest of Manzanillo near the resort towns of Melaque and Barra de Navidad, on a stretch of coast dotted with beaches south of Puerto Vallarta.
“We expect it to be really strong,” said Irma Joya, owner of a souvenir shop on the main boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta, a popular tourist destination where residents braced for waves up to 13 feet [app. 4 meters] high.
“We have experience with hurricanes so there is a culture of prevention here,” she said as she boarded up her shop with wooden planks on Monday evening.
Authorities planned to evacuate low-lying areas.
CONTAINER PORT CLOSED
Manzanillo, Mexico’s main point of arrival for cargo containers, has been closed since late Sunday and about 13 container ships are stuck in the port.
An official said shipments that were held up because of the lock-down, included 15,000 tons of sugar from Colombia, 16,000 tons of imported rolled steel and a shipment of iron pellets for domestic use.
Manzanillo handles about 750 containers of cargo a month and ships goods including cars, car parts, cattle, minerals and tequila to Asian and North American markets.
Mexico has no major oil installations in the Pacific.
The storm had slowed its advance and was moving toward the north-northeast near 6 miles per hour [10 km/h], although the hurricane center said it could move faster later on Tuesday.
“Jova is expected to reach the coast of Mexico near major hurricane strength,” the NHC said. It also expects Jova will turn toward the north on Tuesday night, after reaching the coast in the afternoon or evening. Hurricanes weaken over land.
A dangerous storm surge is likely to produce bad flooding along the coast when Jova makes landfall, the NHC added.
Rainfall of up to 12 inches [19.2 cms] is forecast in parts of the states of Michoacan, Colima and Jalisco, possibly causing life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
“A dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding near and to the east of where the center makes landfall,” the hurricane advisory said. Near the coast … the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” it said.
Puerto Vallarta Mayor Salvador Gonzalez said the resort was preparing shelters for residents that would be evacuated.
“There will be a lot of constant rain, which could hit the mountainous region around Puerto Vallarta,” raising the danger of deadly landslides, Gonzalez said. “But after a couple days of rain we’ll be ready for the Pan-American Games,” he said.
The games bring together athletes from across the Americas in Guadalajara, and some sport competitions will be held in Puerto Vallarta.
(Writing by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Anthony Boadle and Bill Trott)
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