Tropical Storm Andres strengthened off the southwestern coast of Mexico on Monday, prompting emergency preparations for a storm that forecasters said might become a hurricane in coming days.
It was too soon to tell if Andres would make landfall, but a tropical storm watch was issued from Zihuatanejo northward to Manzanillo, meaning that tropical storm conditions were possible in the next day or two.
The Acapulco city government prepared 120 shelters and warned residents to stay indoors, especially some 15,000 people in 20 zones most at risk for flooding. Heavy rains on late Sunday downed a few trees in the resort city.
Late Sunday night, Andres became the first named storm of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season, which began May 15 and ends November 30 and is typically busiest between July and September.
Andres was a late arrival. It’s been 40 years since it took so long in the Eastern Pacific season for a named storm to come along.
“Normally that season gets under way somewhat earlier,” said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. “But it’s not necessarily an indication that it’ll be a quiet year in that basin. We’ve seen some years starting late and become quite active. We’re just going to have to wait and see on that.”
Federal forecasters have predicted a near-normal or below-normal season, with the possibility for 13 to 18 named storms, including six to 10 hurricanes.
The National Hurricane Center said Andres’ center as of 5 am PDT (8 am EDT; 1200 GMT) Monday was about 180 miles (295 kilometers) south of Zihuatanejo.
Andres was moving slowly toward the west-northwest near 3 mph (6 kph). Maximum sustained winds were near 50 mph (85 kph) with higher gusts.
Forecasters said Andres could become a hurricane with sustained winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph) in the next 24 to 36 hours as it turned northwest and skirted along the coast.
The official forecast on Monday still didn’t indicate landfall, but the storm was close enough to the coast that a tropical storm warning could be required later in the day, Pasch said.