Hurricane Orlene heads for Mexico’s former prison islands

MEXICO CITY — Hurricane Orlene rapidly strengthened as it swirls toward Mexico’s northwest Pacific coast, with a likely close brush with former prison islands being developed by the government as an ecotourism destination.

After growing into a hurricane Saturday, Orlene quickly added power, and its maximum sustained winds were up to 110 mph (175 kph) by late Saturday, just below the threshold for a major, Category 3 storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Orlene was centered about 160 miles (255 kilometers) south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes and moving north at 5 mph (7 kph).

The center said the storm would likely strengthen more Sunday, then begin weakening as its moved closer to land.

Orlene was expected to pass near or over the former Mexican penal colony of Islas Marias on Monday morning and make landfall Monday evening in Sinaloa state, somewhere in the region around the resort city of Mazatlan.

Orlene might bring heavy rains and high winds to the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta as it passes offshore Sunday, forecasters said. Puerto Vallarta closed its port to ship and boat traffic Saturday as a precaution.

Mexico’s National Water Commission said Orlene could cause “mudslides, rising river and stream levels, and flooding in low-lying areas.”

The hurricane center described Orlene as a small storm, with hurricane-force winds extending out about 10 miles (20 kilometers) from the center and tropical storm-force winds out to 60 miles (95 kilometers).