The US embassy and consulates in Mexico warned Americans on the country’s Pacific coast to be prepared as a major hurricane was expected to make landfall on Monday.
With all eyes on the death and destruction wrought last week by Hurricane Ian, which Sunday was blamed for 83 deaths in Florida and four in North Carolina, Hurricane Orlene appeared to creep into Mexico and then quickly roar with destructive winds.
Orlene turned 85 miles northwest of Cabo Corrientes, a spit of land jutting into the Pacific Ocean just south of Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco.
It was moving north at 8 mph, U.S. forecasters said. They think it will make landfall north of Puerto Vallarta after noon Monday and then weaken quickly as it travels overland.
The US embassy and consulates spoke out, telling citizens and legal residents living on Mexico’s southwest coast or visiting the southwestern Mexican coast to be prepared.
“U.S. citizens in states along the coast of western Mexico and the Islas Marias should monitor Orlene’s progress,” they said in a weather alert. “Seek shelter if necessary.”
The storm reached Category 4 strength early Sunday, seemingly out of nowhere, with sustained winds of at least 130 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It weakened to a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of at least 111 mph, according to the center.
Mexican forecasters had previously said that Category 2 winds would recede overnight. The category is determined by sustained winds from 96 to 110 mph.
The hurricane was predicted to produce sustained winds of 90 mph or more when making landfall Monday, making it a Category 1 storm.
The Mexican government warned Sunday that Orlene will bring intense, torrential rain to the states of Jalisco and Nayarit, whipping up waves from 10 to 16 feet.
The U.S. Hurricane Center called Orlene’s swell “life-threatening,” according to a bulletin.
The states of Colima and Sinaloa could also be hit by rain and wind, the government said in a statement on Sunday. In some areas, up to 10 centimeters of precipitation can accumulate, Mexico’s weather agency, the Servicio Meteorológico Nacional, said in a separate public release.
Hurricane conditions were expected for a long stretch of coastline from San Blas to Mazatlán, including Las Islas Marías, according to the U.S. Hurricane Center.
“Orlene is expected to be a strong hurricane when it comes near or over Islas Marias, and remain a hurricane when it reaches southwestern Mexico,” the weather service said in a bulletin Sunday night.
Storm surge — the hurricane that pushes seawater onto land — was expected to begin Sunday night, the Hurricane Center said. It did not include an estimate of storm surge, measured in feet.
Private golf forecaster Surfline suggested the storm, which pushed the swell north and west over the weekend away from the California shoreline, could create some rare waves on the Gulf of California side of Baja California Sur.
Waves were forecast for the weekend from Cabo San Lucas to San José del Cabo, but Surfline warned conditions could become chaotic and windy as the storm got closer to the tip of Baja.
The North Pacific hurricane season started on May 15 and has been relatively active, as US forecasters predicted, with as many as 20 named storms expected by the time the season ends on November 30.
Colorado State University meteorologist and hurricane expert Philip Klotzbach tweeted that the Atlantic season has also been “very busy”, with only five seasons since 1950 of greater “accumulated cyclone energy” in the second half of September.
He cited the effects of “warm pool strength” in the Atlantic, as well as the influence of global weather phenomena known as El Niño and La Niña, which can have broad effects depending on sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.
It’s not clear whether climate change will be a deciding factor in the tropical cyclone activity of the Atlantic and Pacific this year, but experts have long said it will result in periods of severe weather becoming more frequent.