Tropical Storm Aletta nears hurricane status

Aletta hurricane

Aletta, the first named storm of the season, rapidly intensified Thursday night, becoming not only a hurricane but a powerhouse Category 4 Friday morning. It predicts the storm's intensity to peak late Friday, with maximum winds of 145 miles per hour, just about 10 miles per hour shy of Category 5 levels.

In order for a hurricane to qualify as a Category 4 storm, it would have to produce winds between 130 to 156 miles per hour, according to NASA, and Aletta seems determined to top that category.

Forecasters said the hurricane may gain more intensity before a combination of increased wind shear and decreasing ocean heat will cause Aletta to break down. The outlook calls for 14 to 20 named storms, including 7 to 12 hurricanes, of which 3 to 7 become major hurricanes (category 3 or higher).

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Forecasters expect the storm to make a turn toward the northwest over the weekend before a westerly turn Sunday or Monday.

Forecasters are also keeping an eye on another area of low pressure to the east of Aletta. The NHC said it's too early to tell whether the second system will pose a threat to the Pacific coast next week.

The centre said Friday morning that swells generated by Aletta will begin to affect portions of mainland Mexico and the west coast of Baja California Sur later in the day.

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