Patricia, one of the strongest ever hurricanes, crashed into western Mexico with rain and winds of up to 165 mph (266 kph), hammering coastal areas but skirting major cities and causing less damage than feared.
MANZANILLO, MEXICO (OCTOBER 24, 2015) (ROBERT VARGAS) – Patricia, one of the strongest ever hurricanes, crashed into western Mexico with rain and winds of up to 165 mph (266 kph), hammering coastal areas but skirting major cities and causing less damage than feared.
Mowing down trees, flooding streets and battering buildings, Hurricane Patricia plowed into Mexico as a Category 5 storm on Friday evening before grinding inland. It rapidly lost power in the mountains that rise up along the Pacific coast and was downgraded to a tropical storm by Saturday morning.
So far, it appeared that major damage had been averted because the powerful storm did not hit large population centres.
Around 15,000 tourists had been hurriedly evacuated from the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta as people scrambled to get away from the advancing hurricane, whose massive swirl over Mexico could be seen clearly from space.
Thousands of residents and tourists ended up in improvised shelters, but there were no early reports of fatalities and many felt they had escaped lightly.
The storm hit land near the area of Cuixmala, home to one of Mexico’s most exclusive getaways, at 6:15 p.m. (2315 GMT) on Friday, the U.S National Hurricane Center said.
Cuixmala, located between the major port of Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta, has over the years played host to a colourful assortment of world leaders and eccentric billionaires.
The area is sparsely populated but there are small towns, and it was not clear yet how much damage they had suffered.
At one point generating sustained winds of 200 mph (322 kph), Patricia was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.
Even though it lost some power before coming ashore, it was still a Category 5 storm, the strongest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. Such storms are relatively rare and are capable of causing devastating destruction.
Patricia’s edges caused flooding in parts of Puerto Vallarta, but the resort escaped the worst of the storm and dozens of tourists were able to leave shelters and return to their hotels on Friday night.
Patricia rapidly lost power once it travelled inland. By Saturday morning it had been downgraded to a tropical storm with its maximum winds down to about 50 mph (80 kph), the Miami-based Hurricane Center said.
The storm was located about 35 miles (55 km) northeast of the central city of Zacatecas, moving north-northeast at 21 mph (34 kph), the centre said. It could dissipate by Saturday night.
Even though it was weakening, Patricia was expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm), with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches (50 cm), over the Mexican states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, and Guerrero through Saturday, the Hurricane Center said.
The strongest storm on record was Cyclone Tip which hit Japan in 1979.