Hurricane Bud weakened to a tropical storm as it churned closer to Mexico's coast on Friday, but it brought heavy rains and strong winds that downed trees and closed schools and a major Pacific shipping port.
The first hurricane of the 2012 season, Bud was downgraded to a tropical storm with winds of up to 70 miles per hour (115 km per hour) on Friday afternoon. The center of the storm is expected to hit the coast between the port city of Manzanillo and the tourist town of Puerto Vallarta overnight on Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Downpours and wind gusts whipped through Manzanillo, knocking over trees and sending at least three families into emergency shelters.
Local officials said the municipality of Manzanillo had space for 15,000 people if more evacuations were needed.
"I am worried, but not scared. There is a lot of work to be done," Mayor Rosario Yeme said in Manzanillo, where she was coordinating with emergency services before the storm's landfall.
Authorities shut schools in Manzanillo and several other towns on the Pacific coast.
Last October, Hurricane Jova hit in almost the same area, causing at least four deaths and destroying infrastructure and houses in towns near the port.
Mexico has no significant oil installations on the Pacific coast.
"I am nervous," said 31-year-old Alma Rodriguez, who works at a clothing shop geared toward tourists in Manzanillo's commercial center. "But this is not as bad as the last storm. Everything is pretty calm," she said.
Manzanillo port, which ships cars, cattle, metals and tequila to Asian and U.S. markets, was closed on Friday morning. The terminal handles about 9 percent of Mexico's cargo, also importing containers of manufactured goods.
Businessman Ruben Alamo expected port operations would resume by the weekend.
"The storm will affect imports and exports, but only minimally," said Alamo, who owns a construction company and represents a regional construction business association.
Bud was about 80 miles from Manzanillo on Friday afternoon. The storm is expected to turn gradually away from the coast on Sunday, the hurricane center said.
Rainfall from Bud could soak the states of Michoacan, Colima and Jalisco and southern Nayarit with 6 to 10 inches forecast.
In some places, the storm could dump as much as 15 inches of rain, threatening life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the center said.
Most of Mexico's oil platforms and exporting ports are in the Gulf of Mexico and affected by storms in the Atlantic, where forecasters are expecting a "near-normal" hurricane season this year with up to 15 tropical storms and four to eight hurricanes.