Hurricane Willa swept onto Mexico's Pacific mainland with 120mph winds Tuesday night, hitting an area of beach towns, fishing villages, and farms after roaring over an offshore penal colony. The US National Hurricane Center says the hurricane hit as a dangerous Category 3 storm 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. Damage assessments were limited by darkness and disrupted communications, and no extensive information was expected until morning, the AP reports. Willa came ashore about 50 miles southeast of Mazatlan, a resort city that is home to high-rise hotels and about 500,000 people, including many US and Canadian expatriates.
Torrential rains began in the afternoon, and emergency officials said they evacuated more than 4,250 people in coastal towns and set up 58 shelters ahead of the dangerous storm. The storm also battered the Islas Marias, a group of Mexican islands about 60 miles off the mainland that include a nature preserve and a federal prison. Federal authorities declined to comment on precautions that were taken at the prison, citing security concerns, but said the safety of prisoners was a priority. The Hurricane Center said early Wednesday that Hurricane Willa has weakened to a tropical storm but torrential rains will continue in west-central Mexico. (Willa could bring up to 18 inches of rain to some places.)