Hurricane Raymond Becomes Major Storm, Threatens Recovering Acapulco

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Hurricane Raymond was stuck in a holding pattern off Mexico’s Pacific Coast Monday afternoon as it grew into a dangerous Category 3 cyclone on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale and dumped heavy rains on the popular tourist town of Acapulco and its neighbors to the north.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was about 145 miles west-southwest of Acapulco packing maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour, classifying it as a major hurricane with the potential for “devastating damage.” Powerful as it may be, however, Raymond’s hurricane-force winds extend just 25 miles from the eye and its tropical-storm-force winds just 80 miles, keeping the worst of the storm offshore.

The National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. PDT advisory Monday that Raymond was a little stronger and a lot more unpredictable than earlier in the day. “Raymond is currently stationary,” the agency said. “A slow and erratic motion is expected during the next day or so, and Raymond could move closer to the coast of Mexico within the hurricane warning area tonight and Tuesday. A slow motion toward the west is expected to begin on Wednesday.”

The hurricane is forecast to blow back out into the Pacific Ocean, but could move dangerously close to the Mexican coast before it does. Thus, a hurricane warning remains in effect along a 140-mile stretch of the coast from Tecpan de Galeana to Lazaro Cardenas, while a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning cover the coast from Acapulco to Tecpan de Galeana.

Forecasters say Hurricane Raymond will produce rainfall amounts of between 4 and 8 inches -- with isolated amounts of up to 12 inches over the Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacan -- which could generate dangerous flash floods and mudslides. According to the National Hurricane Center, a storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves may produce significant coastal flooding in areas of onshore flow within the warning zones.

This same stretch of Mexico’s Pacific Coast suffered the brunt of yet another cyclone last month. Rains from Tropical Storm Manuel forced 10,000 people from their homes and triggered deadly mudslides that killed 120 people and left roughly 40,000 tourists stranded in Acapulco for nearly a week before they received an airlift out.

Authorities in the state of Guerrero, home to Acapulco, reportedly set up 700 emergency shelters, closed seaports and schools, and urged residents to take precautions Monday. They also evacuated hundreds of people from the coastal municipalities of Coyuca de Benitez and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, west of Acapulco, according to local reports, and warned that the soil across the region was already saturated with water, increasing the likelihood of flooding and landslides.

The National Water Commission said Monday afternoon it “continues to urge people to heed the instructions of Civil Protection and state and municipal authorities, and to be alert on roads and for landslides in mountainous areas, flooding of rivers and streams, waves and winds.”

Raymond is the first major hurricane of the Pacific season and the first storm Category 3 or above to threaten Mexico since Hurricane Karl hit on the Atlantic side in 2010. In total, eight named storms -- four on each coast -- have barreled into Mexico in 2013.

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