MEXICO CITY: Hurricane Jova weakened slightly on Monday night as it headed for one of Mexico's busiest cargo ports and popular tourist resorts along the country's Pacific coast.
The storm, with top winds reaching 120 miles per hour (195 kph), was about 155 miles (255 km) southwest of the port city of Manzanillo late on Monday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
Jova is expected to make landfall on Tuesday afternoon northwest of Manzanillo near the resort towns of Melaque and Barra de Navidad, on a stretch of coast dotted with fine beaches.
"Some fluctuations in strength could occur during the next day or so ... but Jova is still expected to reach the coast of Mexico as a major hurricane," the Hurricane Center said in a forecast at 11 p.m. EDT [0300 GMT].
Manzanillo, Mexico's main point of arrival for cargo containers, has been closed since late Sunday and about 13 container ships are stuck in the port.
An official said shipments that were held up because of the lock-down, included 15,000 tonnes of sugar from Colombia, 16,000 tonnes of imported rolled steel and a shipment of iron pellets for domestic use.
Manzanillo handles about 750 containers of cargo a month and ships goods including cars, car parts, cattle, minerals and tequila to Asian and North American markets.
If Jova does strengthen before it makes landfall, it could be among the most powerful storms to hit Mexico in the last four decades.
According to Mexico's national weather service, nine hurricanes have made landfall with maximum wind speeds of more than 125 mph (205 kph) since 1970, including Gilbert, which arrived in 1988 with top winds of 178 mph (287 kph).
The storm is moving toward the north-northeast near 7 miles per hour [11 kph] and is expected to turn toward the north on Wednesday, the NHC said.
Rainfall of up to 12 inches (30.5 cm) is forecast in parts of the states of Michoacan, Colima and Jalisco, possibly causing life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
"A dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding near and to the east of where the center makes landfall," the latest hurricane advisory said.
There was a 50 percent chance of another cyclone forming further south, near the Pacific coast of Guatemala, the center said. Mexico has no major oil installations in the Pacific. AGENCIES