This satellite image taken at 8:45 p.m. EDT on Thursday, 22 October 2015, and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Patricia, left, moving over Mexico’s central Pacific Coast. Photo: NOAA

By Christopher Sherman, with additional reporting by Peter Orsi, and E. Eduardo Castillo
23 October 2015

MANZANILLO, Mexico (AP) – Hurricane Patricia headed toward southwestern Mexico Friday as a monster Category 5 storm, the strongest ever in the Western Hemisphere that forecasters said could make a "potentially catastrophic landfall" later in the day.

Residents of a stretch of Mexico's Pacific Coast dotted with resorts and fishing villages on Thursday boarded up homes and bought supplies ahead of Patricia's arrival.

With maximum sustained winds near 200 mph (325 kph), Patricia is the strongest storm ever recorded in the eastern Pacific or in the Atlantic, said Dave Roberts, a hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Patricia's power was comparable to that of Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 dead or missing in the Philippines two years ago, according to the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization.

In Mexico, officials declared a state of emergency in dozens of municipalities in Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco states that contain the bustling port of Manzanillo and the posh resort of Puerto Vallarta. The governor of Colima ordered schools closed on Friday, when the storm was forecast to make what the Hurricane Center called a "potentially catastrophic landfall."

According to the 2010 census, there were more than 7.3 million inhabitants in Jalisco state and more than 255,000 in Puerto Vallarta municipality. There were more than 650,000 in Colima state, and more than 161,000 in Manzanillo.

Rain pounded Manzanillo late Thursday while people took last-minute measures ahead of Patricia, which quickly grew from a tropical storm into a Category 5 hurricane, leaving authorities scrambling to make people safe.

At a Wal-Mart in Manzanillo, shoppers filled carts with non-perishables as a steady rain fell outside.

Veronica Cabrera, shopping with her young son, said Manzanillo tends to flood with many small streams overflowing their banks. She said she had taped her windows at home to prevent them from shattering.

Alejandra Rodriguez, shopping with her brother and mother, was buying 10 liters of milk, a large jug of water and items like tuna and canned ham that do not require refrigeration or cooking. The family already blocked the bottoms of the doors at their home to keep water from entering.

Manzanillo's "main street really floods and cuts access to a lot of other streets. It ends up like an island," Rodriguez said.

In Puerto Vallarta, restaurants and stores taped or boarded-up windows, and residents raced to stores for last-minute purchases ahead of the storm.

The Hurricane Center in Miami warned that preparations should be rushed to completion, saying the storm could cause coastal flooding, destructive waves and flash floods.

"This is an extremely dangerous, potentially catastrophic hurricane," center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said. [more]

Mexico braces for strongest hurricane in Western hemisphere

A satellite image shows Hurricane Patricia in the Pacific at 5:30 a.m. ET on Friday, 23 OCtober 2015. Graphic: CNN Weather

By Greg Botelho
23 October 2015

(CNN) – With 200-mph sustained winds and even more powerful gusts, Hurricane Patricia was the strongest hurricane ever recorded by the U.S. National Hurricane Center as it bore down Friday on Mexico's Pacific coast.

The Miami-based meteorological center, in its 8 a.m. advisory, warned of a "potentially catastrophic landfall in southwestern Mexico" later Friday. While its strength could fluctuate, "Patricia is expected to remain an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane through landfall."

Patricia has potential to cause massive death and destruction to a large swath of the Mexican Pacific coast, including the tourist hot spots of Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco.

Citing observations by hurricane hunters, 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," according to a Friday morning forecast discussion.

The closest contender, at this point, might be Hurricane Camille when it battered the U.S. Gulf Coast in 1969. Regardless, Patricia looks to be more powerful than Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Katrina in 2005 and many others.

It's already surpassed them in one way, central pressure -- which essentially weighs the air above a system that's a key measure of any storm's strength.

The early Friday central pressure recording of 880 millibars (the barometric pressure equivalent is 25.98 inches) "is the lowest for any tropical cyclone globally for over 30 years," according to the Met Office, Britain's weather service.

Patricia's intensity is comparable to Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013, the World Meteorological Organization tweeted. More than 6,000 people died in Haiyan, due largely to enormous storm surges that rushed through coastal areas. Haiyan had 195-mph sustained winds when it made landfall, while Typhoon Tip was at 190 mph (and had a slightly lower pressure reading of 870 millibars) in 1979.

Whether or not Patricia measures up to those Asian typhoons when it slams Mexico, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said, "This is the only hurricane that's ever been this powerful." […]

One other thing alarming about Patricia is its rapid rise in intensity. It rated as a tropical storm early Thursday, but 24 hours later it had become a Category 5 hurricane. […]

Those on that Latin American country's west coast are no stranger to tropical storms, of course. But Patricia is special, in part because of the global, regular weather phenomenon known as El Niño.

Among other effects, El Niño has contributed to ocean waters off Mexico being 2 to 3 degrees warmer than usual.

"That warm water from El Niño probably just pushed this slightly over the edge to be the strongest storm on record," CNN's Myers said. [more]

Patricia, strongest recorded hurricane with 200-mph winds, menaces Mexico



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