UPDATE: Hurricane Jova Crosses Mexico’s Pacific Coast

By and Miguel Angel Gutierrez | October 12, 2011

Hurricane Jova made landfall as a Category Two storm on Mexico’s Pacific coast late Tuesday, threatening one of the country’s busiest cargo ports and tourist resorts with high waves, heavy rain and flooding.

With top winds reaching 100 miles per hour [160 km/h], Jova was about 65 miles [104 kms] west-northwest of the port city of Manzanillo at 11:00 p.m. PDT, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The Miami-based NHC said the center of Jova crossed the Mexican coast near the town of Chamela in the state of Jalisco on a stretch of land dotted with beaches south of Puerto Vallarta. Mexico has no major oil installations in the Pacific.

Downtown in the popular resort of Puerto Vallarta, people boarded up shops as dark clouds gathered for most of the day. By Tuesday night, a few restaurants remained open and some people were still out on the streets in the drizzle.

“So far we only have reports of damage to three restaurants on the coast of Barra de Navidad,” said Juan Pablo Vijeras, head of Jalisco state’s emergency services. “There are no reports yet of injuries to people, but it’s still too early.”

Jalisco authorities protectively set up some 70 shelters. There were no evacuations in Puerto Vallarta, but south of the beach resort people were brought to safety from the towns of Zihuatlan and Melaque near Barra de Navidad.

Earlier on Tuesday, workers scrambled to fill and stack sandbags to protect the professional beach volleyball courts on Puerto Vallarta’s coast, where events from the Pan American Games are scheduled to be staged later this week.

At the second stage of the five-level Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, Jova is considered likely to cause extensive damage. A dangerous storm surge could produce serious flooding along the coast when it makes landfall, the NHC said. “Steady weakening is expected after the center crosses the coast,” the center added.

Puerto Vallarta’s last big hurricane was Kenna in 2002, which hit with top winds of 144 mph [230 km/h] and flooded streets close to the shore, causing damage that took authorities days to clear.

Even as the storm weakened slightly, locals were worried the hurricane would cause heavy rains and flash landslides.

Jova could produce up to 12 inches [30.5 cms] of rainfall over four states, with isolated rainfall of up to 20 inches [50.8 cms], the hurricane center said.

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. Heavy rain and strong winds hit the port for most of Tuesday.

The port 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.

Beachfront hotels were deserted and many shops were closed by lunchtime Tuesday. Depending on conditions, the port could reopen Wednesday or Thursday. Puerto Vallarta’s port was also closed.

(Writing by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Sandra Maler and Eric Walsh)

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