Hurricane Willa swept onto Mexico's Pacific mainland with 120 miles per hour (195 kph) winds Tuesday night, hitting an area of beach towns, fishing villages and farms after roaring over an offshore penal colony.
A hurricane warning was posted for Mexico's western coast between San Blas and Mazatlan, including Islas Marias, home to a nature reserve and federal prison directly in the forecast track of the storm.
Emergency officials said they evacuated more than 4,250 people in coastal towns and set up 58 shelters ahead of the risky Category 3 storm.
Heavy rain is forecast to move into the Northeast on Friday with wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour.
Willa briefly reached Category 5 strength before weakening a bit to Category 4.
Children who were evacuated from their homes play in a big room at the Convention Center being used as a shelter while Hurricane Willa approaches the Pacific beach resort, Mexico October 23, 2018.
In a tweet Monday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said he has asked the National System of Civil Protection to take all steps necessary to protect those in the hurricane's path as well as those affected by Tropical Storm Vicente, a weaker system tracking south of Willa that's also primed to make landfall Tuesday.
"An extremely risky storm surge is likely along portions of the coast of southwestern Mexico in southern Sinaloa and Nayarit, especially near and to the south of where the center of Willa makes landfall", the US Hurricane Center announced Tuesday morning.
Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state.
"It was really strong", said Cecilia Crespo, a spokeswoman for police in Escuinapa, a seaside town near to where the storm plowed inland. He estimated 3,000 were affected, but he expected some would try to stay.
"People were very alarmed", the 60-year-old said.
The governments of Sinaloa and Nayarit states ordered coastal region schools to close on Monday and began preparing emergency shelters ahead of the onslaught. American Airlines has canceled its flights in Mazatlán, about 275 miles to the north.
Farther to the south, Tropical Storm Vicente had weakened to a tropical depression early Tuesday, but it was still bringing heavy rainfall that caused unsafe flooding in southern and southwestern Mexico.
It's too early to tell for certainty if this will affect SC, but so far the forecast shows no impact for our area, said the service said Thursday morning.