- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

From combined dispatches

MIAMI | Potentially deadly Hurricane Jimena, churning in the Pacific off Mexico, now has a “high possibility” of crashing into the coast, the National Weather Service warned Sunday.

After earlier moving on a track that looked as if it would curve away from the coast, the service said there is a “high possibility of a direct (land) hit by Hurricane Jimena in the next 72 hours,” in Baja California Sur state on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico’s northwest.

Late Sunday, Jimena was packing winds of 140 mph and was moving west-northwest at 8 mph, the weather service said.

The storm, which could barrel onshore Wednesday, may be felt with powerful winds, heavy rain and rough seas as soon as Tuesday, it forecast.

With gusty winds and some drizzle here already, residents of La Paz, the state capital, were rushing to board up windows and buy groceries before shops close their doors.

State civil defense officials were meeting to decide if and when evacuations will be necessary and where shelters will be set up.

The area of the state where the storm may make its hit is not especially densely populated, and has many small fishing villages.

Jimena has already caused “intense heavy rain with flooding in the lowlands and landslides in mountains” in the states of Guerrero, Michoacan, Colima and Jalisco on the Pacific coast, a Mexican weather official said Saturday.

The Category 4 storm was just one notch below the most dangerous possible category on the 1-5 Saffir-Simpson scale.

The Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin that “a hurricane watch may be required for portions of the southern Baja California peninsula (of Mexico) later (Sunday into Monday).”

“Some fluctuations in strength are likely over the next day or two,” the center said.

If Jimena stays on its northwestern track, it would carry hurricane-force winds to the tip of resort-dotted Baja California by late Monday and slam into the peninsula by Wednesday morning, said Richard Pasch, a senior specialist with the National Hurricane Center.

Mr. Pasch said Jimena’s path “is subject to some uncertainty” and that it is difficult to predict exactly how strong the storm will be when it nears Baja California, site of resorts popular among American and other foreign tourists.

“I think it’s going to be a substantial hurricane by the time it approaches,” he said.

Jimena kicked up surf along the northwestern coast and generated strong winds that bent trees in the resort town of Zihuatanejo, uprooting at least one. Strong waves and wind prevented a couple on a boat from reaching port, forcing them to spend the night at sea, said Zihuatanejo coast guard official Jose Angel Lara.

On Sunday afternoon, Jimena was centered about 270 miles south of Cabo Corrientes, a coastal town in the western state of Jalisco.

Authorities in Cabo Corrientes were setting up shelters in case of heavier wind and rain, said Arturo Garcia, an official with Jalisco’s civil protection agency.

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