Tropical Storm Andres Strengthens

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ACAPULCO, Mexico - Tropical Storm Andres was expected to grow into the Pacific season's first hurricane Tuesday and deal a glancing blow to southwestern Mexico before churning its way up the coast past picturesque towns popular with foreign retirees.

Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the Pacific coast from just south of Manzanillo north to near Puerto Vallarta. To the south, officials in Acapulco prepared 120 shelters and warned residents to stay indoors, especially some 15,000 people in zones most at risk for flooding. Heavy rains late Sunday knocked down a few trees in the resort city.

Forecasters said Andres was likely to brush the coast at hurricane strength around the port city of Manzanillo on Tuesday. Forecast models showed its center later pushing up the coast near towns such as Barra de Navidad that are home to some American and Canadian expatriates.

At Barra de Navidad, northwest of Manzanillo, Agapito Garcia Martinez, security manager at the Grand Bay Hotel-Isla Navidad Resort, said Monday that hotel staff were preparing, like taking in beach furniture and protecting hotel windows, but had not yet been advised by authorities to so.

Weather was still sunny despite stronger-than-usual winds and guests were still checking in normally to the hotel, he said. But that could change by Tuesday, when Andres drew closer, he noted.

"Tomorrow, we expect to have a lot of water," Garcia Martinez said.

Late Sunday, Andres became the first named storm of the eastern Pacific hurricane season, which began May 15 and ends Nov. 30 and is typically busiest between July and September.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Andres was centered about 170 miles (275 kilometers) south-southeast of Manzanillo at 8 p.m. PDT (11 p.m. EDT; 0300 GMT) Monday, and it had sustained winds near 65 mph (100 kph), with higher gusts.

It was moving toward the northwest near 8 mph (13 kph). The storm's winds were expected to build as high as 75 mph (120 kph), just over the minimum for a hurricane, by late Tuesday or Wednesday. Most forecast models predicted the storm would brush the central Mexican coast Tuesday before weakening and bending toward the west a little short of the Los Cabos resorts at the tip of the Baja California peninsula Thursday night or Friday.

It has been 40 years since it took so long for a named storm to develop in the eastern Pacific, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

Forecasters in the U.S. have predicted a near-normal or below-normal season, with the possibility for 13 to 18 named storms, including six to 10 hurricanes.

Rains unrelated to the tropical storm resulted in the death of six people and left four others missing in the northern border state of Chihuahua, after a van plunged into a rain-swollen river.

The state civil defense office said Monday that the bodies of two men, two women and two children - all passengers in the van - were recovered, but four passengers remained missing.

The accident occurred Sunday in the city of Cuauhtemoc.

Associated Press Writer Sofia Mannos in the Broadcast News Center in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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