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CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico – A powerful Hurricane Blanca roared toward Mexico's Baja California Peninsula on Sunday, as authorities put thousands of troops on alert and businesses boarded over windows ahead of its arrival.
The unpredictable storm strengthened rapidly to a Category 4 storm on Saturday before weakening to Category 3, and forecasters said it should weaken to a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday as it nears Mexico's coast.
It is expected to make landfall on Baja California's southwestern coastline Monday as a tropical storm. But the director of Mexico's National Water Commission, Roberto Ramirez, said he was concerned about Blanca's "erratic" behavior and warned residents along the coast to be prepared for intense rains.
In Baja California, 2,000 army troops and 1,321 marines have been put on alert, as well as emergency responders and power line technicians, said Civil Protection director Luis Felipe Puente.
He said there is currently a 70 percent hotel occupancy rate in Los Cabos and warned tourists to be attentive to any advisories issued by authorities
Some businesses and banks were seen hammering boards over their windows in preparation for Blanca's arrival. People began forming lineups at gas stations to stock up on fuel.
Blanca's maximum sustained winds on Saturday night were near 120 mph (195 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The hurricane is centered about 255 miles (415 kilometers) south of Cabo San Lucas and is moving northwest near 10 mph (17 kph).
A hurricane watch is in effect for an area from Cabo San Lucas to Santa Fe. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Loreto to Puerto San Andresito, including Cabo San Lucas.
Puente said he saw no reason to suspend local elections scheduled to be held on Sunday.