CBS/AP October 23, 2018, 5:22 PM Hurricane Willa closes in on Mexico's Pacific coast
Hurricane Willa, a fierce Category 3 storm, closed in on Mexico's Pacific coast Tuesday with 120 mph winds, prompting more than 4,000 evacuations in coastal towns. The storm is expected to make landfall Tuesday evening near Mazatlan, a popular tourist destination.
Forecasters warn the storm will bring life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall to parts of western Mexico.
The storm battered the Islas Marias, a group of Mexican islands about 60 miles off the mainland that include a nature preserve and a federal prison. Federal authorities gave no immediate details on any damage to the prison or what steps were taken to protect the inmates.
As Willa closed in, the beach in Mazatlan almost disappeared, with waves slamming against the coastal boulevard, black clouds looming overhead. A few surfers took advantage of the high waves even as workers boarded up windows on hotels, shops and homes. Schools were closed and the streets nearly empty.
The federal government issued a decree of "extraordinary emergency" for 19 municipalities in Nayarit and Sinaloa states.
Bob Swanson, who is from Saskatchewan, Canada, and spends two to six months of the year in his house in the Cerritos neighborhood near the shore in Mazatlan, said he filled his washing machine with water, filled his home fuel tank and gassed up his car in case he needs to head into the mountains for safety.
"I come from a country where we have hurricanes and vicious storms, so I'm kind of waiting with bated breath," he said over the phone while sitting on his porch and smoking a cigarette.
Hurricane-force winds extended 40 miles from the storm's center, and tropical storm-force winds were up to 125 miles out. Forecasters said Willa could bring 6 to 12 inches of rain, with up to 18 inches in some areas.
Farther to the south, the remnants of Tropical Storm Vicente continued to bring heavy rain that caused deadly flooding and mudslides in southern and southwestern Mexico. Federal disaster agency chief Luis Felipe Puente said 11 people died as a result of Vicente. Local officials earlier put the figure at 12.
Officials in Oaxaca state said seven adults and five children had lost their lives in drownings or mudslides. After leaving Mexico, Willa, which absorbed moisture from Vicente's remnants, was expected to drop between 1 and 3 inches of rain in already saturated parts of Texas.
By Friday, Willa is expected to become a nor'easter and threaten parts of the Eastern Seaboard. "It's going to retain its identity and then kinda merge with Gulf of Mexico moisture, a big front that's going to be swinging down from the Great Lakes," Berardelli said on CBSN, "and we're going to be talking about a major nor'easter for us here in New York City but really up and down the whole Eastern Seaboard."
Jeff Berardelli contributed to this report.