MEXICO CITY, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Hurricane Jimena strengthened to a major Category 3 storm on Sunday off Mexico’s Pacific Coast and was headed close to the Baja California peninsula, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Hurricanes of Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale are considered "major" and are the most destructive type.
Jimena, a small but powerful hurricane, was still a safe distance from shore but was forecast to gather strength and brush the peninsula’s Los Cabos, an upscale resort, on Tuesday, when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will be meeting there to discuss tax havens.
Early Sunday morning, Jimena was located about 305 miles (490 km) south of Cabo Corrientes, Mexico, and about 550 miles (885 km) south-southeast of the southern tip of Baja, California. The storm’s winds increased to near 115 mph (185 kmh) with higher gusts. It was moving northwest at 12 mph (19 kph). Forecasters expected the center of the storm to move parallel to the west coast of Mexico.
It was moving northwest at around 12 mph (19 kph) .
"Jimena could become a Category 4 hurricane during the next day or so," according to an advisory issued by the center.
"The new forecast track increases the threat to the southern Baja California peninsula," the center said.
The NHC said interests in western Mexico and the southern Baja California area should monitor its progress.
Mexico has no oil installations in the Pacific and for the time being the oil exporting port of Salina Cruz and other ports in the area remained open. Mexican media reported that an oil refinery at Salina Cruz was shut following stormy weather on Friday evening, but had ample fuel supply in stock.
OECD head Angel Gurria will attend the Sept. 1-2 meeting 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 same area in June, flooding Acapulco and sweeping a fisherman to his death. Acapulco, one of many resorts dotted along Mexico’s Pacific coast, is popular with Mexican and foreign tourists.
Hurricane Carlos formed in the Mexican Pacific in July but was too far out to sea to pose a threat.
Jimena’s hurricane force winds extended outward up to 25 miles (40 km) from the storm’s center.
Tropical Storm Kevin also gathered strength far out in the Pacific, some 1,035 miles (1,065 km) southwest of the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and moving to the north. Kevin is the seventh named storm of the month in the eastern Pacific. (Reporting by Catherine Bremer)