Hurricane Newton barrels toward Mexico resort


La Paz (Mexico) (AFP)

Hurricane Newton swirled toward Mexico's popular northwestern resorts of Los Cabos early Tuesday, prompting authorities to close schools and airports two years after a powerful storm pummeled the region.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that "preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion" in parts of the Baja California peninsula and that Newton would make landfall Tuesday.

The NHC said at 0600 GMT that Newton was packing winds of up to 90 miles (150 kilometers) per hour as it churned some 60 miles southeast of Cabo San Lucas.

"On the forecast track, the center of the large eye of Newton should be near or over the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula later this morning," the NHC said.

The government of the state of Baja California Sur opened several shelters with room for 16,000 people after the tropical storm was reclassified as a hurricane.

Some 15,000 tourists are in the region, mostly in Los Cabos, according to Baja California Sur's tourism secretary, Genaro Ruiz Hernandez, who announced that all flights were canceled in the state late Monday.

Authorities also closed ports to small boats in Baja and other parts of the Pacific coast.

The Mexican government issued hurricane warnings for the west coast of the state of Baja California Sur as well as Cabo San Lucas in its southern tip, a favored destination of American tourists.

Los Cabos was pummeled in September 2014 by Hurricane Odile, which left six people dead and caused $1 billion in damage.

The storm is due to produce up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain in several Pacific coast states, which could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the center said.

A "dangerous" storm surge was expected to cause significant coastal flooding, it added.

- Damage in Acapulco -

Newton threatened to cause more mudslides and flooding in eight states along the Pacific coast, Mexican authorities said, adding that thousands of shelters were readied.

The weather system caused damage in the country's south over the weekend before it became a tropical storm, with heavy rain blamed for three deaths in the southern state of Chiapas.

Floods and landslides damaged or affected some 70 homes and schools and trapped around 200 people in Acapulco, the resort in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

Torrential rain that began Saturday morning flooded some 1,400 homes and caused more than 30 landslides on highways in Guerrero, civil protection authorities said.

Heavy rainfall trapped around 200 people in a housing complex, prompting air evacuations by police, marines and the army.

- Hermine threat -

While western Mexico was getting hammered with precipitation, the United States was spared the worst when Hurricane Hermine -- later downgraded to a tropical storm -- crashed ashore in Florida before moving out to sea.

The hurricane center warned that the post-tropical cyclone would cause a storm surge and tide that could flood normally dry areas in the northeastern United States.

Hermine, located some 150 miles southeast of the eastern tip of New York's Long Island, had sustained winds of 70 miles per hour but was expected to weaken late Tuesday.

Tropical storm warnings were issued in Long Island and parts of the northeastern states of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Hermine killed two people after striking Florida on Friday before weakening to tropical storm status as it moved north off the US East Coast.

Florida's first hurricane landfall since 2005 caused street flooding and power outages.