MEXICO CITY, Aug 17 —Tropical Storm Hilary strengthened into a hurricane as it barrelled through the Pacific today, the US National Hurricane Centre said, warning it will gain more force in coming days and bring heavy rainfall and coastal flooding to parts of northwest Mexico.

“Rapid strengthening is forecast, and Hilary could become a major hurricane by tonight or early Friday,” the Miami-based center said in its latest advisory.

Located about 320 miles (515 km) south-southwest of the port city of Manzanillo, Hilary was carrying maximum sustained winds of nearly 75 mph (120 kph).

It was moving west-northwest at 13 mph (21 kph) this morning and its center was forecast to approach the Baja California peninsula over the weekend, the centre said.

Hilary is expected to produce 3-6 inches (7.6-15 cm) of rain across parts of the Baja California peninsula through Monday morning. Flash flooding will be possible in some areas, the NHC warned.

The heavy rainfall was expected to impact the southwestern United States from tomorrow through early next week, peaking on Sunday and Monday. — Reuters