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Tropical Storm Otis strengthens to hurricane near Mexico

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Residents of Mexico’s once glamorous port of Acapulco and surrounding coastal towns braced for the arrival of the “potentially catastrophic” Hurricane Otis, a rapidly intensifying Category 5 hurricane that stirred memories of a 1997 storm that killed dozens of people.

“A nightmare scenario is unfolding for southern Mexico this evening with rapidly intensifying Otis approaching the coastline,” a National Hurricane Center forecaster said late Tuesday.

Hurricane Otis strengthened from a tropical storm to a dangerous Category 5 hurricane in 12 hours Tuesday as it approached Mexico’s southern Pacific coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Otis had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph) late Tuesday evening and was expected to make landfall early Wednesday near Acapulco. It was centered about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south-southeast of Acapulco and moving north-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).

Acapulco is a city of more than 1 million people at the foot of steep mountains. Luxury homes and slums alike cover the city’s hillsides with views of the glistening Pacific.

While it drew Hollywood stars in its heyday for its nightlife, sport fishing and cliff diving shows, Acapulco has in more recent years fallen victim to competing organized crime groups that sank the city into violence, driving many international tourists to the Caribbean waters of Cancun and the Riviera Maya or hippie beaches farther down the Pacific coast in Oaxaca.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Punta Maldonado to Zihuatanejo. A hurricane watch was is in effect from Lagunas de Chacahua to Punta Maldonado

Otis was forecast to remain a Category 5 hurricane through landfall but rapid weakening is then forecast due to the higher terrain of Mexico. Otis will likely dissipate over southern Mexico on Wednesday night.

“This is an extremely serious situation for the Acapulco metropolitan area with the core of the destructive hurricane likely to come near or over that large city early on Wednesday, “ the weather service said. ”There are no hurricanes on record even close to this intensity for this part of Mexico.”

In Acapulco, people hurried home as rain began to pelt the