Hurricane Jimena, a dangerous Category 4 storm off Mexico's Pacific Coast, was on track to buffet resorts on the Baja California peninsula on Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Jimena, a small but powerful hurricane that has intensified quickly since it formed early on Saturday, was packing 145 mph winds with higher gusts, and the Mexican government issued a hurricane watch for southern Baja California. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible with 36 hours.
According to the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, Category 4 hurricanes are extremely dangerous and can cause devastating damage if they hit land.
The hurricane center said people located in central Baja California peninsula and western mainland Mexico should also monitor the storm's progress because more watches could be issued on Monday.
Jimena was a safe distance from shore but set to gather steam and brush the upscale resort of Los Cabos on Tuesday, when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is scheduled to hold a meeting there to discuss tax havens.
It was not clear whether the meeting would be canceled.
The weather was sunny with blue skies and a light breeze in southern Baja California on Sunday and remained calm as night fell.
Americans living in Cabos stocked up on food and drinking water and filled their cars and generators with gas. Some tourists said they planned to cut short their vacations.
I'm a little nervous about this one because my husband is out of town and it will be my first hurricane alone, said Christy Dobson, an 11-year resident of Los Cabos originally from Oklahoma, as she snatched up cases of water and nonperishables at a supermarket with her two small daughters.
Californian Lynn Perre, who owns a condo in Los Cabos, and her mother Beverly Boyer decided to cut short their vacation and fly out on Monday. I'm nervous and frightened, said Boyer. This is a Category Four storm that is going to hit.
The Baja California peninsula is a sparsely populated strip of desert, mountain ranges and shrublands, but coastal resorts like Los Cabos and La Paz are big vacation spots. The length of the peninsula is popular with U.S. camper van enthusiasts, nature lovers, surfers, sports fishermen and retirees.
Baja California state's civil protection director Jose Gajon said they were making preparations.
NO THREAT TO OIL RIGS
Jimena was 245 miles southwest of Cabo Corrientes, near Puerto Vallarta, and 395 miles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The storm was moving northwest, roughly parallel to the coastline, at 8 mph with hurricane force winds extending outward up to 30 miles from its center.
Mexico has no oil installations in the Pacific and for the time being ports in the area remained open.
OECD head Angel Gurria was due to attend the meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday with officials from about 70 OECD and non-OECD countries. The Paris-based group wants to use the talks to persuade more countries to share tax information.
Jimena is the second hurricane of the 2009 eastern Pacific season to brush close to Mexico after Andres pounded the southern Pacific coast in June, flooding the resort city of Acapulco and sweeping a fisherman to his death.
Sunday also saw Tropical Storm Kevin gathering strength far out in the Pacific, some 890 miles southwest of Los Cabos, but it was expected to weaken over the next two days.
Some locals bet that Jimena would also fizzle out.
We haven't been told we should be worried, said Ruben Guzman, who works at boutique hotel Cabo Surf on the edge of Los Cabos. These hurricanes often veer away before they hit.
(Additional reporting by Catherine Bremer and Adriana Barrera in Mexico City; Writing by Catherine Bremer)