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Cristina Explodes Into Category 4 Hurricane

June 12, 2014; 9:20 AM ET

After slowly taking shape off the coast of Mexico early this week, Cristina rapidly intensified Wednesday night, reaching Category 4 status.

With Cristina joining Amanda as Category 4 hurricanes, this marks the earliest that two hurricanes have reached at least Category 4 status in the Eastern Pacific Basin since the beginning of the satellite era in 1966.

Now a major hurricane, Cristina is a relatively small but powerful hurricane located several hundred miles off the coast of Mexico, tracking toward the west-northwest at less than 10 mph.

Satellite image of Cristina from Thursday morning, courtesy of NOAA.

The combination of very warm ocean waters and low wind shear allowed Cristina to rapidly strengthen as it slowly moved farther from the Mexico coastline with sustained winds reaching 150 mph (240 kph). Cristina will remain in this favorable environment into Thursday night. As a result, Cristina is expected to maintain its strength over the next 12 to 24 hours.

Increasing wind shear will begin to weaken Cristina Friday as the hurricane continues to move toward the west-northwest. Interaction with cooler ocean waters over the weekend will then rapidly weaken Cristina, eventually causing Cristina to become a post-tropical low during the first half of next week.

Impacts on land from Cristina will be limited as the powerful hurricane will remain over the open Eastern Pacific for the duration of its life cycle. Even so, rough surf and dangerous rip currents will continue to batter parts of the Mexico coastline into Friday. Beaches from Acapulco to Puerto Vallarta as well as the southern Baja will be impacted.

As Cristina moves farther west this weekend, high surf and rip current risks will subside across the region, and no further impacts on land are expected.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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International Weather
The AccuWeather.com International Weather Blog, written by Eric Leister, covers weather stories from around the world, with a focus on threatening weather events, and also interesting weather phenomenon.