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Powerful Hurricane Heads for Mexico

October 25, 2002|From Associated Press

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico — Hurricane Kenna strengthened to a Category 5 storm packing 160-mph winds and veered toward Mexico's Pacific Coast on Thursday night, prompting authorities to begin evacuating thousands of people in areas that include major tourist resorts.

A Category 5 storm is the most dangerous, capable of causing catastrophic damage.

"This is a potentially devastating hurricane if it comes in at this intensity or even if it weakens a little bit," said Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. "Based on the records, which go back 40 or 50 years, this would be one of the two or three strongest" hurricanes to hit Mexico's Pacific Coast, Rappaport said.

A hurricane warning was posted for the southwestern coast from Mazatlan, a tourist resort, southward to the port city of La Fortuna. On its current track, forecasters said, the hurricane's center was expected to hit shore south of Mazatlan early this afternoon.

The Hurricane Center forecast some weakening but said that "Kenna is expected to be an extremely dangerous hurricane at landfall."

Emergency officials evacuated about 10,000 fishermen and residents from 30 coastal communities around Mazatlan and ordered schools and docks closed across the area.

Farther south, troops and civil defense authorities evacuated 5,000 people from Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods built along a river and on hillsides in case there is flooding or mudslides.

Even in areas not directly affected by its winds, Kenna was expected to bring 6 to 10 inches of rain and possible flash floods, as well as storm surge flooding of 6 to 10 feet above normal tide levels and dangerous waves.

In Puerto Vallarta, boat owners were stripping their yachts and wrapping extra ropes around dock pylons in an attempt to ensure that their vessels wouldn't be swept away.

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