Three years to the day after a ferocious category 5 hurricane made landfall in Western Mexico, the region was bracing for another Pacific cyclone Tuesday evening. This time, it's Hurricane Willa. At one point when it was still out at sea, Willa had rapidly strengthened to category 5 status, the strongest classification on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. Willa's sustained wind speeds reached 160 miles per hour, but the storm weakened as it approached Mexico. And on Tuesday afternoon, it was a category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of around 120 miles per hour.
The first area directly in its path was an archipelago of four Mexican islands called Islas Maria. And after it passed over them, Willa was expected to arrive on the mainland between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Airlines canceled their service to those cities as Hurricane Willa got closer, and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto directed his government to do everything it could to protect those in the storm's path.
On the ground, forecasters were expecting large and damaging waves, and rainfall of between 6 and 12 inches that could cause flash flooding and landslides in several Western Mexican states.
This has been an active hurricane season in the Pacific. Including Willa, there have been 10 major hurricanes in this region this year. That ties the record in the Northeast Pacific that was set in 1992.