Hurricane Patricia Update: Strongest Hurricane Ever in Western Hemisphere

ith a low pressure center now measured at 879 millibars, Hurricane Patricia strengthened to what has become the strongest hurricane on record in the western hemisphere and one of the strongest hurricanes in recorded history, with maximum sustained winds of 200 miles per hour — unusual and unprecedented even for powerful tropical storms and approaching the ferocity of a giant tornado — and wind gusts of up to 245 miles per hour.

Landfall for this extremely dangerous system is forecast somewhere between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico later tonight. As much as twelve inches of rain is generally expected — with as much as 20 inches of rain could accumulate in local areas — which will lead to significant flooding. Due to the topography of the coast, a storm surge of up to 20 feet is expected, as the sea water will have nowhere to go but up. A state of emergency has already been declared by officials in dozens of locations in the states of Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.

For the purpose of comparison, greater than 7,300 people were reported either dead or missing as a result of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines — about which I covered in November of 2013 with this travel alert and this updated article. Hurricanes such as Katrina, Camille, Andrew and Wilma — each one historic — do not compare to Patricia in terms of strength and ferocity at this point.

If you have not already left this area, do so now — you will most likely not be able to escape by airplane at this point, as at least three airports in the area have already closed — and if you cannot leave, seek shelter as soon as possible in a sturdy reinforced structure. If you are located near the coast, do not stay on the ground floor due to significant flooding and high waves.

Roads and bridges will be ripped apart and destroyed, if my photographs after Hurricane Katrina are of any indication. Food, fuel and other necessities will most likely be in short supply. Basic systems — such as electrical and plumbing — will either fail or be destroyed. I also expected hospitals in the region to be inundated with injured people.

If you have travel plans to this area, postpone or cancel them. I expect for some hotels and resorts to be demolished or destroyed, with others significantly damaged from flooding and winds approaching the force of a tornado; and when that happens, repairs could take weeks or months — or, in the case of Biloxi after Hurricane Katrina, even years. Avoid traveling to this area in the near future; and keep yourself informed with airlines and lodging companies for the latest updates.

Places as far away as Mexico City may see torrential rains and flash flooding caused by the outer bands of Hurricane Patricia. Outer bands of hurricanes have historically been known to sporadically spawn tornados.

Since the last update on Hurricane Patricia here at The Gate, discussions on FlyerTalk have suddenly appeared:

 

This article may be updated depending on the latest news which occurs. Until then, please stay safe.

Source of animated satellite image: the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

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