Manzanillo (Mexico) (AFP) - A massive Hurricane Patricia roared toward Mexico's Pacific coast, prompting authorities to suspend classes, close ports and urge tourists to stay away from the region.
The US National Hurricane Center said "preparations should be rushed to completion" as Patricia increased ominously from a category two to a category four storm in the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers (130 miles) per hour, the hurricane was expected to strike the coast on Friday afternoon or evening, the Miami-based center said.
"Some strengthening is forecast tonight and Patricia is expected to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through landfall," it said in a statement.
Forecasts show that Patricia could make landfall in the western state of Jalisco, near the border with Colima state.
The region includes the major port of Manzanillo in Colima and Jalisco's tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta.
"We are patrolling communities on the coast in the Puerto Vallarta area as well as Melaque and La Huerta, urging the most vulnerable population to get to safety," Jalisco state civil protection director Jose Trinidad Lopez Rivas told Foro television.
- Schools, ports closed -
Emergency services personnel were being moved from other states to the threatened region, said Mexico's National Water Commission director Roberto de la Parra.
"It is moving much faster than hurricanes we have had in the past," de la Parra told a news conference.
Mexican officials closed schools in Jalisco, Colima and Guerrero states.
Two dams in Jalisco and Michoacan were being drained to prevent flooding.
Ports closed to small boats in several ports in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacan, Guerrero and Oaxaca. The port of Acapulco in Guerrero was shut for larger ships.
At 2100 GMT, Patricia was 400 kilometers south of Manzanillo, according to the US Hurricane Center.
The storm was moving west-northwest at 20 kilometers per hour.
Patricia is expected to produce six to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rainfall accumulations over the states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero, which could produce flash floods and mudslides, the US center said.
The storm surge could also produce coastal flooding, accompanied by "large and destructive waves," it warned.
The water commission warned that rivers could rise and roads could be affected by the bad weather.
- Wind force causes concern -
Mexico's interior ministry activated its emergency response committee to coordinate the response.
Officials said nearly 1,800 shelters for 259,000 are available, but no evacuations have been ordered so far.
"The amount of water and the strength of the wind worry us," national civil protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente told a news conference.
Jalisco, Michoacan, Colima and Nayarit are expected to get the equivalent of 40 percent of their annual rainfall in the next 48 hours, the water commission said.
Mexico faces the double threat of Atlantic and Pacific tropical storms during the hurricane season, which ends November 30.
In 2013, twin storms Ingrid and Manuel nearly simultaneously struck each coast, leaving 157 people dead in a rare double onslaught.