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Hurricane Kenna May Hit Mexico

October 25, 2002

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PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) _ Hurricane Kenna grew into one of the strongest hurricanes to menace Mexico’s Pacific coast in decades and veered toward land Thursday night, as forecasters called for urgent action to protect an area that includes major tourist resorts.

The Category 5 hurricane with winds of 160 mph was veering away from a Baja California summit of world leaders. Category 5 is the strongest category of hurricane and is considered 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 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 if it does not weaken substantially, Rappaport said.

By Thursday night, Kenna was centered about 230 miles southwest of Cabo Corrientes, the tip of land that juts into the Pacific south of the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta.

A hurricane warning was posted for the southwestern coast from Mazatlan, another tourist resort, southward to the port city of La Fortuna.

Kenna turned slightly and began to roar toward land Thursday night, churning north-northeast at 11 mph. On its current track forecasters said the hurricane’s center was expected to come ashore south of Mazatlan early Friday afternoon.

The Hurricane Center forecast said some weakening was expected before the hurricane hit land, but that ``Kenna is expected to be an extremely dangerous hurricane at landfall.″

``Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,″ the center said.

Mexican troops and civil defense workers began alerting coastal communities late Thursday and preparing for possible evacuations.

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 large, dangerous battering waves.

In Puerto Vallarta, boat-owners were stripping their yachts and wrapping extra ropes around dock pylons to ensure their vessels wouldn’t be swept away by heavy winds or high waves that could batter the area.

``We’re doing everything possible to make sure the boats are OK,″ said Mike Pearce, a boat salesman who moved here from Vancouver three years ago. ``Sometimes it doesn’t come in but if it does and you haven’t done anything it’s too late.″

Fellow boater Danny Colangelo said many Puerto Vallarta residents have not done enough to prepare for Kenna’s wrath.

``They don’t understand that there’s going to be a lot of wind and a lot of rain,″ said Colangelo, 56, who moved to Puerto Vallarta from San Francisco.

Colangelo said he went from store-to-store looking to buy emergency sandbags but found none for sale. He was forced to fill tarps from his boat with sand and use the makeshift bags to protect his house.

Steady coastal winds that usually blow through Puerto Vallarta subsided Thursday, leaving the air calm even as ominous blue-gray clouds formed off the coast.

``We’ve been here for 10 days and every day the wind’s been blowing and I thought to myself today it’s really quiet. It’s too quiet,″ said Niels Otterloo, a 27-year-old tourist from Holland.

``We don’t have this in Holland,″ he said. ``It’s a little bit exciting but it’s a little bit scary too.″

Leaders of Pacific Rim nations were gathering for a weekend summit in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula. While forecasters said the storm was veering away from the peninsula, they said people there should continue to monitor it.

Economy Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said Mexico had an alternate site ready in case the hurricane strikes Cabo San Lucas, but called that a very remote possibility. He didn’t say where the alternate site was.

Rappaport said other strong hurricanes that have hit the coast included a 1959 storm that struck near Manzanillo, though he said some evidence throws questions on the figure of 160 mph given for its winds. It reportedly killed 1,000 people.

Madeline, a 1976 storm came ashore near Zihuatanejo with winds of 144 mph.

Other deadly eastern Pacific storms of recent years have include Pauline in 1997, which killed at least 230 people along the coast near Acapulco, Ismael in 1995, which killed more than 90 in the Gulf of California, and Liza in 1976, which killed an estimated 435 near the tip of the Baja California Peninsula.

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