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Cat 4 Hurricane Willa Close to Coast   10/23 06:39

   MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Authorities rushed to evacuate low-lying areas and set 
up shelters as an "extremely dangerous" Hurricane Willa with winds of 145 mph 
(230 kph) headed toward a Tuesday afternoon landfall along a stretch of 
Mexico's Pacific coast dotted with high-rise resorts, surfing beaches and 
fishing villages.

   Farther south, meanwhile, Mexican officials reported late Monday that there 
had been 12 deaths related to heavy rains from Tropical Storm Vicente.

   Willa briefly reached Category 5 strength, then weakened a bit to Category 
4. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center warned that it still was likely to 
bring "life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall" to parts of 
west-central and southwestern Mexico.

   Workers taped up windows in hotels and officials ordered schools closed in a 
low-lying region where towns sit amid farmland tucked between the sea and 
lagoons. A decree of "extraordinary emergency" was issued for 19 municipalities 
in Nayarit and Sinaloa states, the federal Interior Department announced.

   Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying 
areas, mostly in Sinaloa state.

   The hurricane was expected to first pass over or near the Islas Marias, a 
group of islands about 60 miles (96 kilometers) offshore that include a nature 
preserve and a federal prison. Forecasters said Willa would then blow ashore in 
late afternoon somewhere along a 140-mile (220-kilometer) stretch from the 
resort city of Mazatlan to San Blas.

   Enrique Moreno, mayor of Escuinapa, a municipality of about 60,000 people 
lying on Willa's potential track, said officials were trying to evacuate 
everybody in the seaside village of Teacapan. He estimated 3,000 were affected 
but he expected some would try to stay.

   "The people don't want to evacuate, but it's for their security," he said. 

   About 60 miles (100 kilometers) up the coast in Mazatlan, with a 
metropolitan-area population of about 500,000, Mayor Jose Joel Boucieguez said 
officials prepared shelters and were closely monitoring low-lying areas. 
Mazatlan is a popular vacation spot and home to a large number of American and 
Canadian expatriates.

   Late Monday, Willa was centered about 85 miles (140 kilometers) southwest of 
the Islas Marias and 195 miles (310 kilometers) south-southwest of Mazatlan. It 
was moving north at 9 mph (15 kph), but was forecast to make a turn to the 
northeast during the night.

   Hurricane-force winds extended 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the storm's 
core, and tropical storm-force winds were up to 125 miles (205 kilometers) out.

   The U.S. hurricane center warned that Willa could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 
to 30 centimeters) of rain --- with up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) in some 
places --- to parts of Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa states, with flash flooding 
and landslides possible in mountainous areas.

   Farther to the south, a weakening Tropical Storm Vicente was expected to 
dissipate soon, but it still caused heavy rainfall that caused dangerous 
flooding in southern and southwestern Mexico.

   Officials in Oaxaca state said seven adults and five children had lost their 
lives in drownings or mudslides. 


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