CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - Hurricane Odile swirled menacingly toward Mexico's Los Cabos resorts on Sunday, forcing authorities to evacuate high-risk areas and open shelters as the powerful storm threatened to thrash the Pacific coast.
The "dangerous" category three storm in the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale packed 205 kilometer (125 mile) per hour winds as it approached the Baja California peninsula, according to the US National Hurricane Center.
"All preparedness actions to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," the Miami-based centre said, warning that the hurricane could produce life-threatening floods and mudslides.
The core of Odile will pass close to, or over, the southern tip of the peninsula late Sunday and Monday, it added.
Four-meter (13-foot) waves crashed on the beaches and intense rains lashed Los Cabos, which is known for its high-end hotels.
Some 26,000 foreign tourists and another 4,000 Mexicans were staying in 18 hotels converted into temporary shelters, officials said.
"It took us by surprise. The sea is rough. I think this is going to get very ugly," Steve Clement, a surfer from Hawaii, told AFP.
Authorities evacuated an unspecified number of people from vulnerable coastal areas and prepared 164 shelters for 30,000 residents as heavy rain covered the region.
Operations at Los Cabos International Airport were suspended. Authorities said electricity and water services would be halted in rural towns.
Nearly 1,000 marine troops were deployed to help the population.
"The tourists are not panicking," said Daniel Manzini, assistant manager at the Hyatt Place hotel in San Jose del Cabo, which was nearly full. "The hotel is safe and can be converted into a shelter." - Flood danger - ================ In the evening, Odile was 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the southern tip of Baja California, moving north-northwest at 26 kilometers (16 miles) per hour.
The hurricane had grown to category four strength earlier in the day before weakening, though forecasters warned that it could regain power before reaching Baja California.
Calling Odile a "highly dangerous" hurricane, National Water Commission director David Korenfeld said a weather alert was issued for the entire peninsula for at least the next 24 hours.
National Weather Service coordinator Juan Manuel Caballero said the hurricane could batter the peninsula as a category four storm.
The hurricane was moving erratically and veering dangerously toward land, Caballero said.
He added that it could miss Los Cabos and enter the Gulf of California instead, so safety precautions needed to be taken in the nearby Mexican states of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Colima as well.
The hurricane is expected to produce a dangerous storm surge, with large waves, which could produce "significant" coastal flooding in parts of Baja California.
A total of 13 to 25 centimeters (five to 10 inches) of rainfall are expected in the peninsula, with rain bands moving through the states of Colima, Jalisco and Michoacan likely to spark life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, forecasters said.
The hurricane advanced around the one-year anniversary of a twin tropical storm battering on both coasts that left 157 people dead.