PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico: Hurricane Roslyn made landfall on the west coast of Mexico on Sunday as a powerful Category 3 storm, the US National Hurricane Center said, as communities braced for damaging winds, a dangerous storm surge and flash flooding. The storm hit the central Nayarit state around 5:30 am (1130 GMT) packing estimated maximum sustained winds of 120 miles (195 kilometers) per hour, the NHC said. Just hours before hitting the Mexican coast, Roslyn was downgraded to a Category 3 storm on the five-tier Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, with the NHC predicting "rapid weakening" after landfall.

"Roslyn is expected to produce a life-threatening storm surge with significant coastal flooding in areas of onshore winds" through Sunday, the NHC said, adding that near the coast "the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves." It warned as well of damaging winds and heavy rains that could cause flash flooding and landslides. Authorities have declared a precautionary alert in the Pacific coast states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit and Sinaloa.

Victor Hugo Roldan, director of civil protection in Jalisco, told reporters on Saturday that several hundred people had been evacuated from the town of La Huerta, close to the hurricane's expected path. Most went to relatives' homes, while some went to shelters, he said.

'Heed every warning'

Jalisco, which is slated to get up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain in some spots, set up shelters in the cities of Cabo Corrientes, La Huerta and the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta. Businesses in the resort town began to close Saturday afternoon on officials' recommendations. Residents rushed to make last-minute preparations, though by late Saturday afternoon some tourists were still lounging on the beach or unsuccessfully searching for open bars and restaurants.

For 59-year-old shopping mall manager Graciano Pena, the memory of 2002's Hurricane Kenna, which made landfall as a damaging Category 4 and left four dead, is still fresh. "After that experience, we heed every warning and make preparations ahead of time," he said. Other coastal states also prepared shelters.

Tropical cyclones hit Mexico every year on both its Pacific and Atlantic coasts, usually between May and November. At the end of May, Agatha, the first Pacific storm of the season, hit the coast of the southern state of Oaxaca, where heavy rain in mountainous towns killed 11 people. In October 1997, Hurricane Pauline struck Mexico's Pacific coast as a Category 4 storm, leaving more than 200 dead. - AFP