Several other tourist getaways in the state of Nayarit as well as the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco state lie in Willa's path, which is forecast to bring a life-threatening storm surge of ocean water, wind and rainfall.
A general view shows the Malecon as Hurricane Willa approaches the Pacific beach resort of Mazatlan, Mexico Oct. 23, 2018.
MAZATLAN, Mexico-The center of Hurricane Willa moved over Mexico's Pacific coastline on the evening of October 23 with winds of more than 100 miles per hour (160 km per hour), buffeting buildings and dumping rain on tourist resorts where thousands of people had moved to safety.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the risky Category 3 storm hit near Isla del Bosque in Sinaloa state, and federal officials said there were early reports of power blackouts in some places and damage to flimsy structures with tin roofs.
A hurricane warning was posted for Mexico's western coast between San Blas and Mazatlan, including Islas Marias, home to a nature reserve and federal prison directly in the forecast track of the storm.
Willa came ashore about 50 miles southeast of Mazatlan, a resort city with high-rise hotels and about 500,000 people, many of them USA and Canadian expatriates.
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Willa had reached rare Category 5 status on Monday with winds near 160 miles per hour (260 kph) before it weakened.
As Willa closed in, the beach in Mazatlan nearly disappeared, with waves slamming against the coastal boulevard under looming black clouds.
Workers board up windows before the landfall of Hurricane Willa, in Mazatlan, Mexico, on Tuesday. Schools were closed and the streets almost empty.
Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state, where small towns sit amid farmland tucked between the sea and lagoons.
Willa first swept over the Marias islands, where Mexico has a federal prison.
Some families took shelter at the Mazatlan convention center, spreading out blankets along the walls to wait out the storm.
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Bob Swanson, who is from Saskatchewan, Canada, and spends two to six months of the year in his house in the Cerritos neighborhood near the shore in Mazatlan, said he filled his washing machine with water, filled his home fuel tank and gassed up his vehicle in case he needs to head into the mountains for safety.
"People were very alarmed", the 60-year-old said. He estimated 3,000 were affected but he expected some would try to stay.
Willa made landfall near Isla del Bosque in Sinoa province, about 50 miles away from the major coastal city of Mazatlan.
More than 4,250 people were evacuated from high-risk areas.
Adding to the weather chaos, the remnants of Tropical Storm Vicente were moving over Michoacan on Tuesday, bringing more heavy rainfall.
The Hurricane Center also warned that Willa could cover parts of Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa states with 6 to 18 inches of rain.
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