Willa closes in on Mexico’s west coast, WestJet updates advisory

Willa closes in on Mexico’s west coast, WestJet updates advisory

TORONTO — WestJet has added a second sun destination to its travel advisory for passengers flying in or out of destinations along Mexico’s Pacific coast, as Hurricane Willa gets ready to make landfall.

WestJet is now waiving change fees for both Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, for flights scheduled through Oct. 26. The first advisory, posted earlier this week, covered just Puerto Vallarta.

Meanwhile authorities are rushing to evacuate low-lying areas and set up shelters as an “extremely dangerous” Hurricane Willa with winds of 215 kph headed toward a Tuesday afternoon landfall along a stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Willa briefly reached Category 5 strength, then weakened a bit to Category 4. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center warned that it still was likely to bring “life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall” to parts of west-central and southwestern Mexico.

Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state.

The hurricane was nearing the Islas Marias, a group of islands about 96 kilometres offshore. Forecasters said Willa would then blow ashore in late afternoon somewhere along a 220 kilometre stretch from Mazatlan to San Blas.

While was likely to weaken somewhat, forecasters said it still was expected to be a powerful Category 3 storm when it hits land.

In Mazatlan, with a metropolitan-area population of about 500,000, Mayor Jose Joel Boucieguez said officials prepared shelters and were closely monitoring low-lying areas.

Earlier today Willa was centred about 85 kilometres southwest of the Islas Marias and 245 kilometres south-southwest of Mazatlan. It was moving north at 7 kph but was forecast to make a turn to the northeast.

Hurricane-force winds extended 55 kilometres from the storm’s core, and tropical storm-force winds were up to 205 kilometres out.

The U.S. hurricane centre warned that Willa could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cms) of rain – with up to 18 inches (45 cms) in some places – to parts of Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa states, with flash flooding and landslides possible in mountainous areas.

With files from The Associated Press

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