MEXICO CITY (AP) — Carlotta grew into a powerful Category 2 hurricane on Friday as it roared toward southern Mexico, where it is expected to brush the Pacific coast near the resort town of Puerto Escondido and then approach Acapulco.
Authorities opened emergency shelters, tourists began leaving Puerto Escondido and hotel owners gathered up furniture and other potential flying objects in preparation for the hurricane.
Ines Vos, a German who has lived on Mexico's coast for 22 years and now runs the Beach Hotel Ines, 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.
Hurricane Carlotta's center was about 65 miles (100 kilometers) south-southeast of Puerto Angel and 280 miles (450 kilometers) southeast of Acapulco Friday, with winds of 105 mph (165 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Carlotta was expected to draw within a few miles of the shoreline early Saturday in a sparsely populated area between Puerto Escondido and the resort of Acapulco. The center said it could move over land briefly in those areas.
While Carlotta was moving northwest at 12 mph (19 kph), the hurricane center said it was likely to turn westward and move parallel to the coast, stopping just short of Acapulco before it weakens into a tropical storm, turns and moves out to sea again.
However, the area of Oaxaca state and neighboring Guerrero state that the storm will brush is full of mountainous terrain that can experience flash floods under heavy rainfalls.
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.