LOS CABOS, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Paul rapidly strengthened into a major Category 3 storm in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico on Monday, prompting a hurricane warning for a swath of Baja California's western coast.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Paul's maximum sustained winds had ratcheted up to 120 mph (195 kph) as of 8 p.m. EDT Monday. Paul was centered about 360 miles (580 kilometers) southwest of the tip of the Baja peninsula and moving north-northeast at 14 mph (22 kph).
Forecasters said Paul was expected to approach the western coast of the southern Baja peninsula by late Tuesday and be near or over the central Baja peninsula on Wednesday. The hurricane was expected to begin weakening Tuesday, the hurricane center said.
Paul is on track to bypass the heavily populated tourist areas of Los Cabos at the tip of the peninsula, and the capital, La Paz, on the eastern Gulf of California. But school was suspended Monday and Tuesday as a precaution in Los Cabos, and heavy rain and high waves closed the ports of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, said Wenceslao, Pettit, head of civil protection.
The storm is forecast to brush Baja's Pacific coast farther north near Puerto San Carlos, an area of sparsely populated area of fishing villages, before turning northward along the coastline. The outer cone was forecast to pass over the entire peninsula farther north in the towns of Meluge. Comondu and Loreto.
State civil protection authorities say they are monitoring the storm for possible evacuations and have sent advance teams from the federal electricity and water commissions to help maintain services during the storm.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the western coast from Santa Fe north to Puerto San Andresito, and a tropical storm warning on Baja's western flank from north of Puerto San Andresito to Punta Abrejojos and also from Agua Blanca to south of San Fe. A tropical storm watch is in effect for north of Punta Abreojos to El Pocito.
In the Atlantic, meanwhile, Rafael reached hurricane strength late Monday in the Atlantic Ocean south of Bermuda.
The hurricane center said Rafael's top sustained winds had risen to near 75 mph (120 kph), making it the ninth hurricane of the Atlantic season.
Rafael is centered about 560 miles (905 kilometers) south of Bermuda. It is moving north at 10 mph (17 kph) and forecast to pass near or to the east of Bermuda by late Tuesday.