Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, is set to make landfall on Mexico’s Pacific coast Friday afternoon. Residents have been warned to be prepared for torrential rainfall and winds reaching speeds of 200 mph.
The Miami-based meteorological center sent out an advisory for “potentially catastrophic landfall … in southwestern Mexico” that would hit sometime Friday afternoon or early evening. Patricia is expected to maintain Category 5 status even as it makes landfall.
The hurricane has potential to cause major amounts of death and destruction. In its path are Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, both major tourist destinations.
In a discussion on Friday morning, hurricane hunters stated that Patricia is “the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins.”
The next strongest storm is Hurricane Camille, which hit the US Gulf Coast in 1969. Patricia is looking to be much stronger than Camille, and recent hurricanes Andrew (1992) and Katrina (2005).
Already, Patricia has surpassed all three hurricanes in its central pressure reading, a direct indication of the strength of a storm. As of Friday morning, the central pressure reading was 880 millibars (a barometric pressure of 25.98 inches). According to Britain’s Met Office, this is the lowest pressure that has been recorded in 30 years for any tropical cyclone.
Patricia has been compared to Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in 2013. Over 6,000 people were killed during Haiyan, as it hit the coast with wind speeds of 195-mph.
As of Friday morning, Patricia was centered 125 miles (75 kilometers) southwest of Manzanillo and 195 miles south of Cabo Corrientes. The hurricane warning extends from San Blas to Punta San Telmo, meaning that these areas will experience hurricane conditions within 24 hours.
A hurricane watch extends to the areas east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas. Millions of people are under threat of Patricia, some of which are tourists.
Officials have been hard at work, setting up shelters and warning those in coastal areas of the potential threat. Locals have been advised to stay home, head to shelters, and do whatever they could to be safe during the approaching storm. Some hotels and resorts along the coast have been evacuated, while others have chosen to board up the windows and not evacuate.
Patricia’s strength has increased rapidly. Early on Thursday, it was only a tropical storm. Just 24 hours later, its status had increased to a Category 5 hurricane.
El Niño has been blamed for aiding in Patricia’s strength. Due to El Niño, the waters around Mexico have been 2 to 3 degrees warmer than usual, which is enough to assist in creating an incredible strong storm.
There is some good news about Hurricane Patricia. The center is fairly compact, with hurricane force winds only extending about 30 miles out from the eye. It’s a small comfort for those in the outlying areas, but means little for those who are expected to be hit head-on.
There is no doubt that Hurricane Patricia will be a devastating blow to the Mexican coast.