By Jean Luis Arce
LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) - A storm off the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane on Monday, heralding its landfall with heavy rains and winds along a coastal highway connecting key tourist havens.
Hurricane Newton lay about 125 miles (200 km) south-southeast of the tourist resort of Cabo San Lucas on Monday night, with maximum sustained winds picking up to 90 mph (144 km), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The hurricane was expected to make landfall in the early hours of Tuesday.
"Those people that are in the hurricane warning area, they need to rush to protect life and property and move to a safe place as quickly as they can," Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the NHC, told Reuters on Monday. "Later tonight it’s going to be too late."
Overcast skies in Los Cabos gave way to heavy rains late on Monday, with strong gusts.
Twelve shelters opened across the area and tourists caught in the storm filled gas tanks as the storm strengthened.
It is low season for tourism, and hotel staff said occupancy levels were average for this time of year.
"The hotel occupancy is normal for these dates," said Carla Tellez, a receptionist at the Sandos Finisterra Los Cabos resort.
Mexican emergency services officials were evaluating the progress of the storm and were taking some preventive measures, but had not yet ordered any evacuations.
"As a precaution, classes were suspended from this afternoon until tomorrow," a government official in Los Cabos told Reuters.
Mudslides triggered by intense rainfall in eastern Mexico killed around 40 people last month as saturated hillsides collapsed on to homes in the wake of Tropical Storm Earl.
(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Natalie Schachar; Editing by Simon Gardner and Nick Macfie)