Hurricane Jova has made landfall in the Mexican state of Jalisco as a Category 2 storm.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Jova's maximum sustained winds early Wednesday are near 160 km/h with steady weakening expected as the storm moves inland.
Early in the morning, Jova was centred about 100 kilometres west-northwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, and is moving north-northeast.
As the storm's leading rain bands began swatting at the coast Tuesday night, heavy rain fell in the port city of Manzanillo and strong winds made palm trees sway.
As the storm's outer bands of rain began hitting the coast, some vowed to ride out the storm, while others took refuge at shelters in towns such as Jaluco, just inland from the beach community of Barra de Navidad.
"My house has a thatch roof and it's not safe," said Maria de Jesus Palomera Delgado, 44, a farmworker's wife who went to an improvised shelter at a grade school in Jaluco, along with her 17 children and grandchildren. "The neighbours told us the house was going to collapse" if hit by the hurricane, she added as the children slept nearby on folding cots packed into a classroom.
The Mexican army said it had assigned about 1,500 soldiers to hurricane preparedness and relief efforts.\
Jova was expected to hit the states of Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit the hardest. About 183,000 people live in the centre of the storm's projected path, said Laura Gurza, chief of the federal Civil Protection emergency response agency.
Storm surge expected
The hurricane centre in Miami warned that storm surge was expected to produce significant coastal flooding between the major seaport of Manzanillo, east of Barra de Navidad, and Cabo Corrientes, southwest of Puerto Vallarta.
Jova could unleash as much as 50 centimetres of rain in isolated areas as it moves inland. Jalisco state authorities evacuated about 500 families late Monday from their homes on the coast, said Alejandro Arias, Puerto Vallarta's civil protection director, after a meeting with state authorities.
Authorities shut down the port of Manzanillo, the biggest cargo centre on Mexico's Pacific coast, and the nearby port of Nuevo Vallarta. Officials were evaluating whether to close the port in Puerto Vallarta, said Laura Gurza, chief of the federal Civil Protection emergency response agency.
Perhaps a couple of hundred tourists remained Monday in Barra de Navidad and the nearby beach town of Melaque, said Armando Martinez, an employee of the civil defence department of Cihuatlan, the township that includes both towns.
Bill Clark, a tourist from Santa Rosa, Calif., ate tacos at a street stand while enjoying a balmy Monday night.
"Some people are going out of town but I'm not really worried," said Clark, 59, who has been coming to the town of about 3,000 people since 1994.
"I'm from California. I have been through earthquakes."