Hurricane gains strength off Mexico's Pacific coast

Hurricane Sergio gained strength Wednesday as it drifted far off Mexico's resort-laden Pacific coast, which has already contended with three near misses this season.

A rare November hurricane strengthened into a Category 2 storm Wednesday as it drifted far off Mexico's resort-laden Pacific coast, which has already contended with three near misses this season.

Sergio, bringing wind speeds of almost 170 kilometres per hour, is expected to brush Pacific coastal towns sometime this weekend, but forecasters said it was too early to say whether the storm would make land.

Forecaster Michelle Mainelli at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the small, compact storm could strengthen further, but was expected to stay over water parallel to the Mexican coast for the next five days.

Sergio, the 10th hurricane of the year in the eastern Pacific, was located 750 kilometres south of Manzanillo, Mexico, and was creeping southeastward at 8 km/h.

The hurricane's predicted course follows a path along Mexico's west coast in the general direction of the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, the hurricane center said.

The eastern Pacific has not seen a storm this strong soclose to the end of the hurricaneseason sinceforecasters began keeping records.

Storms hurt tourist-dependent region

Mexico's Pacific coast has been blitzed with storms this year, as opposed to the relativelycalm season in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, which has seen little activity after a devastating 2005.

Forecaster Richard Pasch said there was still "a lot of uncertainty" about Sergio's final destination and strength.

"It's very erratic," he said Wednesday.

Three hurricanes predicted to hit the Los Cabos region's resort towns earlier this season veered away from hotels and condominium complexes popular with U.S. tourists, at the last minute.

Hurricane Paul was blamed for the deaths of three people in northwestern Mexico in October. In September, Hurricane Lane killed three people along the Pacific coast and Hurricane John killed at least three people in Baja California.

The warnings prompted large-scale evacuations in the region anddeeply hurtLos Cabos's tourism-dependent economy. Many resort owners said their businesses can't handle another evacuation.

Tropical storms become hurricanes when wind speeds reach 119 km/h. Category 2 hurricanes have minimum wind speeds of 154 km/h and Category 3 hurricanes have minimum wind speeds of 178 km/h.

The eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends Nov. 30.

With files from the Associated Press