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Cristina Explodes Into a Major Hurricane

After slowly taking shape off the coast of Mexico early this week, Cristina rapidly intensified Wednesday night, reaching Category 4 status.

Cristina has slightly weakened since then but still remains a major hurricane. The storm current ranks as a category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour.

With Cristina joining Amanda as Category 4 hurricanes, this marks the earliest that two hurricanes have reached at least Category 4 status in the Eastern Pacific Basin since the beginning of the satellite era in 1966.

Now a major hurricane, Cristina is a relatively small but powerful hurricane located several hundred miles off the coast of Mexico, tracking toward the west-northwest at less than 10 mph.

The combination of very warm ocean waters and low wind shear allowed Cristina to rapidly strengthen as it slowly moved farther from the Mexico coastline with sustained winds reaching 150 mph (240 kph) at one point. Cristina is slowly moving out of this favorable environment and the storm is beginning to weaken.

Increasing wind shear will continue to weaken Cristina Friday as the hurricane continues to move toward the west-northwest. Interaction with cooler ocean waters over the weekend will then rapidly weaken Cristina, eventually causing Cristina to become a post-tropical low during the first half of next week.

Impacts on land from Cristina will be limited as the powerful hurricane will remain over the open Eastern Pacific for the duration of its life cycle. Even so, rough surf and dangerous rip currents will continue to batter parts of the Mexico coastline into Friday. Beaches from Acapulco to Puerto Vallarta as well as the southern Baja will be impacted.

As Cristina moves farther west this weekend, high surf and rip current risks will subside across the region, and no further impacts on land are expected.

AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jordan Root also contributed to this story.