Strongest Hurricane Ever Recorded Prompts Tens of Thousands to Flee Western Mexico

hurricane-patricia

Tens of thousands of people were being evacuated Friday from Mexico’s Pacific coast as the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere bore down on the popular tourist area packing sustained winds of 200 mph.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted the Category 5 Hurricane Patricia would make a “potentially catastrophic landfall” in southwestern Mexico later in the day.

The center described the storm as the most powerful ever recorded in the eastern Pacific or Atlantic basins. It warned of powerful winds and torrential rain that could bring life-threatening flash flooding and dangerous, destructive storm surge.

“Patricia is one of the strongest tropical cyclones globally ever observed,” said WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue, “based on lowest central pressure and maximum surface (and flight level) wind speed since the dawn of aviation-based reconnaissance in the 1940s.”

Patricia’s winds intensified a whopping 109 mph during Thursday, rising from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane. It was the fastest intensification ever recorded in the eastern Pacific Ocean, according to meteorologist Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University.

Roberto Ramirez, director of Mexico’s National Water Commission, said Hurricane Patricia is powerful enough to lift up automobiles and destroy homes not sturdily built with cement and steel. The storm will also be able to drag people caught outside when it strikes. Those on the coast will be in the most danger, especially people living in the state of Jalisco, which has a population of more than 7.3 million, he said.

In a Category 5 hurricane, a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse, according to the hurricane center. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months, and most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

At 11 a.m. ET, Hurricane Patricia was 125 miles southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, moving to the north at 10 mph, the hurricane center said. The storm is expected to remain an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane through landfall, the agency said.

A total of 50,000 people were expected to be evacuated ahead of the storm, according to civil protection agencies in the three Mexican states of Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit, Vallarta Daily reported. Those regions house the port city of Manzanillo and the town of Puerto Vallarta, a resort town with a large expatriate community from the U.S. and Canada.

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SOURCE: Doyle Rice and David Agren
USA TODAY