By Mark Stevenson
MEXICO CITY - Hurricane Raymond strengthened to a Category 3 storm early Monday and threatened to hurl heavy new rains onto a sodden region of Mexico's Pacific Coast already devastated by last month's Tropical Storm Manuel.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the newly formed storm had nearly stalled offshore, about 165 miles (265 kilometers) west-southwest of Acapulco, and it was expected to move a little closer to the coast by Tuesday before veering back out to sea on Wednesday.
Mexican authorities rushed to deploy emergency crews and said they were considering ordering evacuations of low-lying areas. About 10,000 people already were living away from their homes a month after Manuel inundated whole neighborhoods and caused landslides that buried much of one village. It left behind drenched hillsides that posed serious landslide risks.
David Korenfeld, head of Mexico's National Water Commission, said officials were pinning their hopes on a cold front moving from the north that could help steer Raymond away from the coast.
"The cold front coming down is what makes it (Raymond) turn to the left, but that is a model," Korenfeld said. "If that cold front comes down more slowly, this tropical storm ... can get closer to the coast."
Forecasters said that even if Raymond stays offshore, the storm could dump heavy rain and cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides along the south-central Mexican coast.
"There will be rain for the next 72 hours along the Pacific coast — very heavy rain, torrential rain," Korenfeld said.
Raymond's center was about 115 miles (185 kilometers) south-southwest of the beach resort of Zihuatanejo and it had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph) early Monday.
A hurricane warning was in effect from Tecpan de Galeana, up the coast from Acapulco, north to the port of Lazaro Cardenas. A tropical storm warning was posted from Acapulco to Tecpan.