MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tropical Storm Raymond steamed Sunday toward Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, an area devastated by rains and mudslides from tropical storm Manuel in September.
In a region where 10,000 people are still evacuated one month after Manuel flooded their homes or created landslide risks, officials raced to get emergency teams in place and weighed possible further evacuations.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Raymond is expected to become a hurricane soon, but is projected to take a sharp westward turn before it reaches the coast and heads out to sea.
Mexico is pinning its hopes on a cold front from the north that would help force Raymond to turn away from the coast, said the head of Mexico’s National Water Commission, David Korenfeld.
“The cold front coming down is what makes it (Raymond) turn to the left, but that is a model,” Korenfeld said. “If that cold front comes down more slowly, this tropical storm … can get closer to the coast.”
Raymond was located about 195 miles south of the beach resort of Zihuatanejo and had sustained winds of 50 mph. It was moving northwest at about 7 mph, according to the Hurricane Center.
Authorities in southern Guerrero state, where Manuel and Ingrid caused about 120 deaths from flooding and landslides, were more worried about the storm’s heavy rains than the winds.
The state government closed seaports, set up 700 emergency shelters and urged residents in risk areas to take precautions. They were expected to make a decision late Sunday on whether to order more evacuations, including low-lying areas of the resort of Acapulco that flooded during Manuel.
Forecasters say Raymond is expected to slowly approach Mexico’s southern Pacific coast late Monday or Tuesday and then begin to meander. The center says Raymond is expected to become a hurricane by Monday.
Forecasters warn heavy rainfall is possible along the south-central Mexican coast in coming days and could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. A tropical storm watch is in effect from Acapulco to Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico.
The potential damage from what Korenfeld predicted would be three days of sometimes torrential rains could be enormous. About 50 dams in the area are still over capacity and are releasing water to make room for expected rainfall.
Dozens of hillsides along the coast are thought to be unstable and could collapse. Some villages high in the mountains of Guerrero were still without electricity and phone service following Manuel. In advance of the storm, the government has moved helicopters and work crews to the places that problems are most likely to occur.
About 5,000 people in Guerrero are still living in shelters after their homes were flooded, and another 5,000 who were evacuated from homes built on hillsides at risk of mudslides are staying with relatives on safer ground.
“There will be rain for the next 72 hours along the Pacific coast, very heavy rain, torrential rain,” Korenfeld said.