PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- Hurricane John lashed tourist resorts with 135-mile per hour winds and rain yesterday as the dangerous storm marched up Mexico's Pacific coast, and forecasters predicted its center would brush close to land before nicking the tip of Baja California and heading to sea.
Forecasters warned that the Category 4 hurricane could dump up to a foot of rain along parts of Mexico's southern coast, causing landslides or flooding. Besides its maximum sustained winds, the storm also had stronger gusts capable of ripping roofs off buildings and causing storm surges of up to 18 feet above normal.
John was not expected to greatly affect the United States -- cooler Pacific waters tend to diminish the storms before they reach California. But a hurricane warning covered a more than 300-mile stretch of the Mexican coastline from the port city of Lázaro Cárdenas north to Cabo Corrientes, the southwestern tip of the bay that holds Puerto Vallarta.
The government also issued a hurricane watch for portions of the southern Baja Peninsula, from La Paz south on the east coast and from Santa Fe south on the west coast, an area which includes the resort city of Cabo San Lucas.
So far, the most damaging winds have remained offshore, and only tropical storm-force winds have hit the coast.
In Puerto Vallarta, skies were clear and tourists relaxed on the beach. But officials postponed the arrival of a Carnival cruise chip and prohibited customary tours of the bay.
William Rousseau, a tourist from Oregon vacationing with his family in Puerto Vallarta, said hotel officials had warned about John, ``but we're calm because they say it's not going to hit this city."
``We're continuing to enjoy the city," he said. ``They just asked us not to go into the ocean or on any bay tours."
Other tourists could be seen strolling , visiting craft shops , and eating in restaurants.
The area south of Lázaro Cárdenas to Acapulco was under a tropical storm warning. Tropical storm-force winds were lashing Lázaro Cárdenas and the resort of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.
Although the center of John was forecast to remain just offshore, hurricane-force winds were likely to begin raking beaches near Puerto Vallarta late last night, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm was then expected to nick Los Cabos at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula tomorrow before heading out to sea.
The Mexican Army and emergency services were on alert along the coast.