Hurricane Lorenzo hits Mexican coast

Lorenzo made landfall early Friday after strengthening rapidly into a Category 1 hurricane as it bore down on Mexico's Gulf Coast with powerful winds and rain, forcing authorities to evacuate low-lying coastal communities.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the hurricane made landfall along the east-central coast of Mexico, southeast of Tuxpan.

Officials canceled classes and opened more than 60 shelters on the coastline of Veracruz state Thursday, as Mexico's government issued a hurricane warning from Palma Sola to Cabo Rojo.

At least 30 communities near several rivers were ordered to evacuate late Thursday. Residents scrambled to move furniture and belongings to higher ground even as roads began to flood.

"We never expected the hurricane would hit here," said Ribay Peralta, a 33-year-old lawyer who was packing his car with televisions sets, DVD players and other appliances in the town of San Rafael, a low-lying community about 9 miles from Veracruz's coast.

"San Rafael is a town that gets flooded easily," he said by telephone.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said late Thursday that Lorenzo was forecast to strengthen further before hitting land in the "next several hours" near the small port of Tuxpan. It warned that "preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion."