Orlene intensifies to a hurricane, elevates flooding concerns in western Mexico

Hurricane Orlene, the 16th named storm of the East Pacific hurricane season, formed early Thursday morning. AccuWeather forecasters say the storm is on a path to bring heavy rain and gusty winds to portions of Mexico. Moisture from Orlene may even go on to work its way into the United States.

As of Saturday morning, Orlene was a hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph (120 km/h) and was located about 200 miles (320 km) south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes, Mexico. Orlene was a rather compact storm, with hurricane-force winds reaching 10 miles (20 km) outward from its center and tropical-storm-force winds reaching 45 miles (75 km).

In the coming days, forecasters say Orlene is set to become better organized and gain more strength as it churns off Mexico's southwestern coast. Orlene is the season's ninth hurricane.

Impacts to land began Friday night, when the outer rainbands of Orlene began to brush coastal areas of western Mexico. The storm is on track to continue impacting portions of western Mexico over the weekend.

"Widespread 2-4 inches (50-100 mm) of rain will be possible in the states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua," AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva said.

Given the compact nature of Orlene, the heaviest rain from the storm is expected to target areas right along its path. In south-central Sinaloa, rainfall amounts of 4-8 inches (100-200 mm) are expected, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 10 inches (250 mm).

While these regions of Mexico are not strangers to rain, Orlene can unload close to a month's worth of rain in some areas over the course of just a few days. This level of rainfall can quickly lead to flash flooding concerns as well as the risk of mudslides in the higher terrain.

Mazatlán, Mexico, for example, typically records just over 6.50 inches (165 mm) of rain throughout September. Matazlán is expected to pick up widespread rainfall mounts of at least 2-4 inches (50-100 mm) as Orlene approaches and tracks near the area into next week.

The worst impacts in Mexico from Orlene are set to arrive over the weekend as the cyclone takes a turn toward the coastline and begins its approach toward the country.


Widespread wind gusts of 40-60 mph (60-100 km/h) are expected across portions of Durango, Nayarit and Jalisco. Stronger wind gusts of 60-80 mph (100-130 km/h) are likely across a large swath of Sinaloa and portions of Durango. A zone of gusts ranging up to 80-100 mph (130-160 km/h) is even possible south of Mazatlan, Mexico along the coastline.

Orlene is forecast to be a hurricane as it approaches the coast later this weekend, but forecasters are concerned that hostile environmental concerns will cause the storm to lose a bit of wind intensity before landfall Monday.

Regardless of designation at landfall, the strongest wind gusts will occur near where Orlene slams into Mexico, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 100 mph (160 km/h).

Given the potential for heavy rainfall and damaging wind gusts, Orlene is a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes in Mexico.

The last time a hurricane churned in the basin was back in early September when Hurricane Kay brought torrential rainfall to Mexico's Baja Peninsula and went on to cause significant flooding in portions of the far southwestern U.S.

While Orlene is set to take a much different track than Kay, forecasters say some moisture from the cyclone can creep into the Southwestern states over the next several days.

"The track of Orlene once it nears Mexico will influence how much - if any - of its moisture makes its way into the U.S.," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski cautioned.

Forecasters say the wind direction at the middle levels of the atmosphere will allow some moisture from Orlene to travel into portions of the Four Corners region as early as this weekend. This moisture can serve to enhance downpours in any thunderstorms that manage to develop across the region. Given the desert climate, any downpour can lead to dangerous flash flooding concerns.

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