Hurricane Patricia was a strong tropical cyclone that formed in the Pacific on October 20. It rapidly developed into a Category 5 hurricane and was expected to create devastation in southwest Mexico. However, it also rapidly weakened as it entered Mexico. Becoming the most powerful tropical cyclone in the Western Hemisphere, Hurricane Patricia’s peak intensity includes maximum sustained winds of 200 mph.
It made landfall on Cuixmala, Jalisco state, southwest Mexico, on October 23 at around 6:15 in the afternoon with a maximum sustained wind of 165 mph, which is still within the Category 5 based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The weather observatory site in Cuixmala measured higher sustained winds of about 185 mph and with gustiness of 211 mph at the time of landfall.
Despite weakening a little bit before making a landfall in Cuixmala, Hurricane Patricia’s intensity hit coastlines with fierce winds and heavy rains. Tourists in various areas like Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta were made to evacuate to seek shelter. Patricia landed just 55 miles of Manzanillo where the largest container port of the Pacific seaboard of Mexico is located.
Hours later, the National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Patricia lowered to Category 4 with sustained winds of 130 mph but can still cause extreme damage and danger within southwestern Mexico. Strong wind from the fierce Category 5 storm is expected to cause great damage especially in small fishing villages near Puerto Vallarta. Even though it started to weaken hours later after it made landfall, Hurricane Patricia was still extremely dangerous, devastating a lot of structures especially beach resorts in the coastal areas of Puerto Vallarta.
While a lot of stronger typhoons have been recorded in western North Pacific, Hurricane Patricia is currently the strongest storm ever recorded in regions where tropical cyclones are called ‘hurricanes’ such as the North Pacific, North Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.
As fast as it intensified, Hurricane Patricia also weakened rapidly as it passed through the terrains of Mexico. Its path spared some of Mexico’s major cities from worst damages, especially in Mexico’s second largest city – Guadalajara metropolis. There were no major damages in various popular coastal cities where famous resorts are located such as Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
However, heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides which resulted to major damages in roadways. In the state of Michoacan, a roadway section was taken by the mudslide injuring 2 people who are inside a car as it fell into the mudslide.
There is only one Category 5 hurricane that entered the Pacific coast of Mexico and that was also in late October, in 1959. That Category 5 also had a similar path with Hurricane Patricia, hitting the coastal areas of Puerto Vallarta and causing about 1,800 deaths.
Hurricane Patricia is the first ever Category 5 storm that posed significant threat to North America after Hurricane Felix which landed in Nicaragua in September of 2007. Hurricane Felix was also a Category 5 tropical cyclone and remained in that category as it made landfall.
Hurricane Patricia is one of the fastest intensifying tropical cyclones that have been recorded in the world. According to various weathers, the good news about Patricia is that it actually weakened faster than it strengthened. Within just 21 hours after reaching Category 5 and peak intensity, it became just a remnant low.
Based on the recorded hurricanes, the closest storm that could come close to Hurricane Patricia’s size and intensity is Hurricane Camille, which hit United States Gulf of Mexico in 1969. Although Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 were also very strong and caused major damages, there is one factor that Hurricane Patricia surpassed them all – its central pressure. This measurement is a key factor that will determine the strength of the hurricane and Hurricane Patricia has the highest central pressure reading by far.