Patricia strengthens into ‘potentially catastrophic’ Category 5 hurricane, threatens Mexico’s Pacific coast

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Forecasters said late Thursday that Hurricane Patricia had grown into a “dangerous, potentially catastrophic” storm approximately 24 hours before it was forecast to make landfall on Mexico’s Pacific coast. 

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that Patricia’s maximum sustained winds had grown to 160 miles per hour (mph). The storm was located about 200 miles southwest of the port of Manzanillo, Mexico, and was moving northwest at 10 mph. On its current track, the storm was projected to to come onshore between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta sometime Friday afternoon or evening.

Some weakening was forecast before then, but the Hurricane Center said the storm would still be “extremely dangerous” when it makes landfall. Forecasters warned that preparations should be rushed to completion, saying the storm could cause coastal flooding, destructive waves and flash floods.

Steady rain began to fall after dark Thursday in Manzanillo. Luis Felipe Puente, Mexico’s civil defense coordinator, said schools would be closed in Colima state, which is home to Manzanillo.

“We are calm,” said Gabriel Lopez, a worker at Las Hadas Hotel in the city. “We don’t know what direction (the storm) will take, but apparently it’s headed this way. … If there is an emergency we will take care of the people. There are rooms that are not exposed to wind or glass.”

Luz Adriana Limon Rojas of Colima state’s civil defense agency said the area has problems with drainage during storms.

“The neighborhood leaders have come for sacks to fill with sand,” she said.

The federal government declared a state of emergency for 56 municipalities in the storm’s projected path, in the states of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the Mexican coast from San Blas to Punta San Telmo, a stretch of coast that includes Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta. A broader area was under hurricane watch, tropical storm warning, or tropical storm watch.

The Hurricane Center said Patricia was expected to bring rainfall of 6 to 12 inches, with isolated amounts of up to 20 inches in some locations. Tropical storm conditions were expected to reach land late Thursday or early Friday, complicating any remaining preparation work at that point.

Feltgen, the meteorologist, said Patricia also poses problems for Texas. Forecast models indicate that after the storm breaks up over land, remnants of its tropical moisture will likely combine with and contribute to heavy rainfall that is already soaking Texas independently of the hurricane, he said.

“It’s only going to make a bad situation worse,” he said.

 

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