ACAPULCO >> Hurricane Raymond gained strength as it remained nearly stationary off Mexico’s southern Pacific coast today, though it threatened to hurl heavy rains onto a sodden region already devastated by last month’s Tropical Storm Manuel.
Guerrero state authorities said it was raining in places but so far no torrential rains had hit the area. More than 100 people were evacuated as a precaution from a mountain town east of Acapulco, authorities said.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the Category 3 hurricane had maximum sustained winds of about 125 mph and was edging eastward at 2 mph. Raymond was centered about 100 miles south of the beach resort of Zihuatanejo this evening, and it was expected to follow an erratic path and possibly get closer to the coast over the next day, before veering back out to sea Wednesday.
In the beach resort of Zihuatanejo, officials went door-to-door in hillside communities warning residents about the risk of flash floods and mudslides, but nobody had voluntarily evacuated to the three shelters set up in schools and athletic facilities, municipal firefighter Jesus Guatemala said.
Amid light, intermittent rains, tourists continued to stroll through town.
Mexican authorities rushed to deploy emergency crews and said they were considering evacuations of low-lying areas. About 10,000 people already are living away from their homes a month after Manuel inundated whole neighborhoods and caused landslides that buried much of one village. It left behind drenched hillsides that pose serious landslide risks.
David Korenfeld, head of Mexico’s National Water Commission, said Sunday that officials were pinning their hopes on a cold front moving from the north that could help steer Raymond away from the coast.
“The cold front coming down is what makes it (Raymond) turn to the left, but that is a model,” Korenfeld said. “If that cold front comes down more slowly, this tropical storm … can get closer to the coast.”
Forecasters said that even if Raymond stayed offshore, the storm could dump heavy rain and cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides along the south-central Mexican coast.
“There will be rain for the next 72 hours along the Pacific coast — very heavy rain, torrential rain,” Korenfeld said.
A hurricane warning was in effect from Tecpan de Galeana, up the coast from Acapulco, north to the port of Lazaro Cardenas. A tropical storm warning was posted from Acapulco to Tecpan.
Authorities in Guerrero, where Manuel caused about 120 deaths from flooding and landslides in September, closed seaports, set up 700 emergency shelters and urged residents in risk areas to take precautions.
The state cancelled classes in most coastal communities west of Acapulco, including Zihuatanejo. Schools are often used as emergency shelters in Mexico.
The potential for damage from such rains was high. About 50 dams in the area were over capacity, and officials were releasing water to make room for expected rainfall.
Some villages high in the mountains of Guerrero were still without electricity and phone service following Manuel.