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Hurricane Jova lashes Mexican resorts, villages

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MANZANILLO, Mexico — People hunkered down in homes and shelters as Hurricane Jova made landfall as a Category 2 storm early Wednesday in the state of Jalisco on Mexico’s mountainous Pacific coast.

Farther south, a new tropical depression formed off Mexico’s coast and threatened to become a tropical storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Jova’s maximum sustained winds were near 100 mph (160 kph) with steady weakening expected as the storm moves inland. By 5 a.m. EDT, the storm’s winds had weakened to 85 mph (140 kph).

Jova was centered about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of Manzanillo and moving north at 9 mph (15 kph), the hurricane center said.

As the storm’s leading rain bands began swatting at the coast Tuesday night, heavy rain fell in the port city of Manzanillo and strong winds made palm trees sway. Manzanillo is home to Mexico’s second biggest port for non-oil cargo.

Jova was expected to weaken to a tropical storm while crossing the coastal mountains and heading over western Mexico on Wednesday, the center said.

The hurricane center warned that the storm surge could cause significant coastal flooding along the 210-mile (340-kilometer) stretch between Manzanillo and Cabo Corrientes, which is southwest of the resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

Up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain could fall on isolated areas as Jova moves inland, the center said.

Before nightfall Tuesday, marines visited flood-prone areas in Manzanillo to advise people to leave. They found a home for elderly people already flooded and evacuated 37 residents to the homes of relatives, Adm. Jaime Mejia said. Forty others were evacuated in the nearby town of Tecoman, he said.

Some people vowed to ride out the storm, while others took refuge at shelters in towns like Jaluco, just inland from the beach community of Barra de Navidad.

“My house has a thatch roof, and it’s not safe,” said Maria de Jesus Palomera Delgado, 44, a farmworker’s wife who went to an improvised shelter at a grade school in Jaluco, along with her 17 children and grandchildren.

“The neighbors told us the house was going to collapse” if hit by the hurricane, she added as the children slept nearby on folding cots packed into a classroom.

In an another classroom, migrant farmworker Rufina Francisco Ventura, 27, fed her 2-month-old son. She said she had left the ranch where she plants chiles and tomatoes planning only to pick up some free blankets, but shelter workers “told me I shouldn’t leave here, because it’s going to hit hard.”

Jalisco state authorities evacuated about 200 people to shelters by Tuesday and issued alerts over loudspeakers placed in communities along the coast, telling people to take precautions as the hurricane approached, state civil defense spokesman Juan Pablo Vigueras said. The state had 69 shelters ready, he said.

Authorities also set up shelters for residents of inland towns, where the mountainous terrain could cause flash floods and mudslides, which often pose the greatest dangers in hurricanes

The Mexican army said it had assigned about 1,500 soldiers to hurricane preparedness and relief efforts.

Jova was expected to hit the states of Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit the hardest. About 183,000 people live in the center of the storm’s projected path, said Laura Gurza, chief of the federal Civil Protection emergency response agency.

Authorities shut down Manzanillo’s port, the biggest cargo center on Mexico’s Pacific coast, and the nearby port of Nuevo Vallarta.

The hurricane was expected to be dissipating by the time the Pan American Games start Friday in nearby Guadalajara.

The newest tropical depression had maximum sustained winds near 35 mph (55 kph) early Wednesday and the hurricane center said it could become a tropical storm later in the day. A tropical storm warning was issued for Barra de Tonala, Mexico, and extends southward to the Guatemalan border.

The depression was centered about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of Salina Cruz and was moving north near 5 mph (7 kph). The hurricane center said the depression’s center was expected to approach the coast Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Irwin lost some strength farther out in the Pacific with winds near 40 mph (65 kph). While it was expected to move eastward toward land, forecasts indicated it probably wouldn’t make landfall.

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