Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an evening bulletin that the eye of the risky Category 3 storm was about to make landfall, and little variation in strength was expected beforehand.
Hurricane Willa slammed into Mexico's Pacific coast late on Tuesday, raking it with winds of 120 miles per hour (195 kph) that brought power outages, buffeted buildings, and dumped torrential rain on tourist resorts where thousands of people had moved to safety.
The worst storm surge inundation will occur near and just south of Willa's landfall point along the Mexico coast.
As Willa closed in, the beach in Mazatlan nearly disappeared, with waves slamming against the coastal boulevard under looming black clouds.
Hurricane-force winds extended 35 miles (55 kilometres) from Willa's centre, and tropical storm-force winds were felt up to 115 miles (185 kilometres) out.
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Houston is used to keeping an eye on the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season, but this week, the attention will focus on a hurricane from the Pacific Ocean.
The governments of Sinaloa and Nayarit states ordered coastal region schools to close on Monday and began preparing emergency shelters ahead of the onslaught.
It was due to weaken fast as it moved inland, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. A decree of "extraordinary emergency" has been set for 19 municipalities in Nayarit and Sinaloa states.
The storm battered the Islas Marias, a group of Mexican islands about 60 miles off the mainland that include a nature preserve and a federal prison.
Tropical storm warnings ranged from Playa Perula north to San Blas and from Mazatlan north to Bahia Tempehuaya.
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"The people don't want to evacuate, but it's for their security", he said.
"On the forecast track, the center of Willa will approach the coast of west-central Mexico this afternoon, and make landfall within the hurricane warning area along the west-central coast of mainland Mexico early this evening".
Speaking by telephone, Jose Garcia, another resident of the hardest-hit area, said he had hunkered down with others in an Escuinapa hotel waiting for the storm to pass, listening to it rattle buildings as it drove onwards. Mazatlan is a popular vacation spot and home to a large number of Canadian expatriates.
This rainfall will cause life-threatening flash flooding and landslides.
Officials in Oaxaca state said seven adults and five children had lost their lives in drownings or mudslides.
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