MIAMI – Carlotta grew into a powerful Category 2 hurricane on Friday as it neared Mexico's southern Pacific coast, where it is expected to brush the resort town of Puerto Escondido and then lash Acapulco.
Authorities opened emergency shelters and tourists began leaving Puerto Escondido, a laid-back port popular with surfers. Hotel owners gathered up furniture and other potential flying objects in preparation for the hurricane, which was expected to move over or near the stretch resort-studded coast early Saturday.
Wind and rain were already being felt in Puerto Escondido late Friday night, said Oscar Trujillo, owner of the La Casita restaurant.
"The thinner trees are beginning to fold from the wind," he said.
A hurricane warning was in effect for a stretch of coastline from Salina Cruz, Oaxaca to Acapulco in Guerrero state.
Carlotta's center was about 10 miles southwest of Puerto Angel and 225 miles southeast of Acapulco Friday night, with winds of 105 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was moving northwest at 12 mph, the center said.
Ines Vos, a German who has lived on Mexico's coast for 22 years and now runs the Beach Hotel Ines in Puerto Escondido, said she had readied the hotel's generator and stocked up on gasoline and bottled water in preparation for the storm.
"In the morning, a lot of people left, they didn't want to stay because nobody knows how the roads will be" after Carlotta lashes the town, said Vos, who lived through Hurricane Pauline in 1997. Pauline made landfall at Puerto Escondido with winds of 109 mph, killing at least 230 people along the Pacific coast.
The part of Oaxaca state and neighboring Guerrero state that the storm will graze is full of mountainous terrain that can experience flash floods under heavy rainfalls. Carlotta was expected to follow a path parallel to the coastline over Saturday and Sunday, dumping heavy rains.
Cynthia Tovar, a spokeswoman for the Oaxaca state civil defense office, said authorities had begun to open nine emergency shelters and cancelled classes in coastal towns. Authorities were telling people in high-risk areas to head to the shelters, which can hold an estimated 4,500 people.
However, Vos, who spent about a week without electricity after Pauline in 1997, said people appeared to be slow to prepare for Carlotta.
"They are warning people, but I don't see anybody moving," Vos said.