PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Bud continued to weaken early Friday, but remained a Category 2 storm as it headed toward a string of laid-back beach resorts and small mountain villages on Mexico's Pacific coast south of Puerto Vallarta.
Authorities canceled school in 11 communities expected to be hit by heavy rains in Jalisco state, and emergency workers were preparing emergency shelters, many of which would be located in empty school classrooms.
Heavy rains and 6-foot (2-meter) high waves had already started pelting Melaque, a beach town on the Bahia de Navidad, about 60 mph (100 kms) east of the sparsely populated stretch of coast where the hurricane's center is expected to come ashore.
Rafael Galvez, the manager of the Hotel Bahia in Melaque, said his staff was preparing to board up windows in preparation for Bud's arrival.
"For me, really, this is my fourth hurricane. I went through Wilma in Cancun," which hit as a Category 4, Galvez said. "This is a little less severe."
Category 2 Hurricane Jova hit the area in October, killing six people and flooding parts of Melaque and neighboring Barra de Navidad.
"There was a lot of flooding in the whole area, and we lost electricity," Galvez recalled. But this week, he said, only seven of his hotel's 26 rooms were occupied, and none of the hotel's guests were planning to leave.
A hurricane warning was up for Mexico's Pacific coast from Manzanillo, east of Melaque, northwestward to Cabo Corrientes. A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning were in effect from Punta San Telmo westward to east of Manzanillo.
Bud had been a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) late Thursday, but it was down to near 100 mph (165 kph) early Friday. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Bud was expected to weaken further before hitting the coast late Friday or early Saturday.
The storm was centered about 95 miles (150 kilometers) west-southwest of Manzanillo and moving north near 7 mph (11 kph).
The Hurricane Center said the storm would likely decline to tropical storm-force as it hit land, move a little inland and then make a U-turn and head back out into the Pacific. Rain, rather than wind, could be the big threat, with the Hurricane Center warning of the "potential for life-threatening mudslides" in steep terrain inland.
The government of Jalisco state prepared hundreds of cots and dozens of heavy vehicles such as bulldozers that could be needed to move debris.
Officials in Puerto Vallarta said they were in close contact with managers of the hundreds of hotels in the city in case tourists need to move to eight emergency shelters. It said the sea along the city's famous beachfront was calm, but swimming had been temporarily banned as a precaution.
Jalisco state's civil defense office said two shelters had been opened in Cihuatlan, a town just inland from Melaque that was hard hit by flooding from Jova.
The office also said authorities had decided to open a trench to help drain a coastal lagoon near Melaque that was already full and could overflow.
The region is experienced at handling hurricanes, Galvez noted. "The government planning has helped a lot," he noted.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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