updated 10/8/2008 6:36:53 AM ET 2008-10-08T10:36:53

Hurricane Norbert strengthened Wednesday to a Category 3 storm in the Pacific Ocean and was forecast to hit Mexico's Baja California peninsula by the weekend.

The hurricane was expected to turn Thursday toward the northeast on a path that could take it over the southern Baja peninsula and the Mexican mainland, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Norbert's maximum sustained winds were near 115 mph and were expected to strengthen further.

At 5 a.m. ET, the storm was centered about 470 miles south of the southern tip Baja California and was moving west-northwest near 10 mph.

Norbert is the seventh hurricane of the east Pacific season.

Marco strengthens in Gulf
In Mexico's Gulf coast, another storm system, Marco, weakened late Tuesday into a tropical depression after slamming into land as a tropical storm with near hurricane-force winds.

Mexico's state oil company had shutdown of some oil platforms in the gulf and evacuated some 3,000 people before Marco hit the coast about 55 miles north of Veracruz.

Marco was expected to dissipate overnight as it moved over Mexico's mountainous terrain, but forecasters said rains of up to 5 inches could still unleash mudslides.

Marco appeared to have largely spared water-logged southern Veracruz state, where rain-swollen rivers jumped their banks, leaving the towns of Minatitlan and Hidalgotitlan under 10 feet of water last week.

Veracruz state authorities closed schools and set up some 200 shelters, while soldiers and rescue officials bused people from low-lying communities.

In northern Veracruz state, authorities evacuated a hospital in the town of Misantla, where two overflowing rivers threatened with flooding it.

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