LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane Jimena blew into a dangerous Category 4 storm off Mexico’s Pacific Coast and was on track to buffet resorts on the Baja California peninsula on Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.
Jimena, a small but powerful hurricane that has intensified quickly since it formed early on Saturday, had winds of near 135 mph (215 kmh) with higher gusts, and further strengthening was expected in the hours ahead.
According to the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, Category 4 hurricanes are “extremely dangerous” and can cause devastating damage if they hit land.
Jimena was a safe distance from shore but forecast to gather strength and brush the upscale resort of Los Cabos on Tuesday, when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is scheduled to hold a meeting there to discuss tax havens.
The weather was sunny with blue skies in southern Baja California on Sunday but the NHC said a hurricane watch may be required for some parts later in the day.
“The weather is very nice, it’s not raining, it’s cloudless,” said Ruben Guzman, who works at a boutique surf hotel called Cabo Surf on the edge of Los Cabos.
“We haven’t been told we should be worried. These hurricanes often veer away before they hit,” he added.
The Baja California peninsula is a sparsely populated strip of desert, mountain ranges and shrublands, but coastal resorts like Los Cabos and La Paz are big vacation spots. The length of the peninsula is popular with U.S. camper van enthusiasts, nature lovers, surfers, sports fishermen and retirees.
The civil protection director for Baja California Sur state, Jose Gajon, said storm precautions would be taken around Los Cabos from Sunday evening.
Jimena was centered about 285 miles south of Cabo Corrientes, a point on the coast near the resort of Puerto Vallarta, and 515 miles south-southeast of Los Cabos on the southern tip of Baja, California.
The storm was moving northwest, roughly parallel to the coastline, at about 9 mph with hurricane force winds extending outward up to 25 miles from its center.
Mexico has no oil installations in the Pacific and for the time being ports in the area remained open.
OECD head Angel Gurria is due to attend the meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Cabos with officials from about 70 OECD and non-OECD countries. The Paris-based group wants to use the conference to persuade more countries to agree to share information useful to tax collectors.
Jimena is the second hurricane of the 2009 eastern Pacific season to brush close to Mexico after Andres pounded the southern Pacific coast in June, flooding the resort city of Acapulco and sweeping a fisherman to his death.
Hurricane Carlos formed in the Mexican Pacific in July but was too far out to sea to pose a threat.
Sunday also saw Tropical Storm Kevin gathering strength far out in the Pacific, some 960 miles southwest of the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and moving north-northeast.
Reporting by Catherine Bremer and Adriana Barrera; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Vicki Allen