Hurricane Patricia, which is now rated Category 5 and the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, continues tracking towards the coast of Mexico with landfall forecast on the central coast of Jalisco between 4:00 and 6:00pm, where its effects could be catastrophic.
National Water Commission (Conagua) director Roberto Ramírez de la Parra confirmed that it is the most intense hurricane ever recorded in Mexico, warning coastal residents of the extreme danger it presents.
“A Category 5 hurricane can lift vehicles, houses that are not built with concrete and rebar and sweep people off their feet,” he said in a message broadcast on YouTube.
The hurricane warning area extends from Punta San Telmo in Michoacán to San Blas, Nayarit.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center, describing Patricia as “potentially catastrophic,” reported at 10:00am Central Daylight Time the storm is now moving northward at 17 km/h, with a turn to the north-northeast and a faster forward motion expected later today. It should make landfall within the warning area late this afternoon, forecasters said.
Its position was 200 kilometers southwest of Manzanillo and maximum sustained winds were 325 km/h.
The Weather Channel said this morning that the eye of Hurricane Patricia will move onshore in Jalisco, but the adjoining states of Colima and Nayarit will also feel its effects. In addition to “catastrophic winds” those will include “a formidable flood threat.”
The city of Manzanillo may experience destructive winds and is likely to see flooding rainfall, a dangerous storm surge and large waves breaking onshore, Weather Channel forecasters predicted.
Officials are warning residents within the hurricane warning area to remain indoors after 3:00pm this afternoon.
Over the next 48 hours, Patricia could deliver rain totaling 40% of that recorded annually. Conagua is forecasting as much as 250 millimeters in central and southern parts of Colima, in Jalisco and in the south of Michoacán.
Intense rains with accumulations reaching 75 to 150 millimeters are forecast for southern areas of Durango and Zacatecas, the south and east of Nayarit, much of Aguascalientes, the mountains and the south of Guerrero and the south and west of Guanajuato.
Waves up to 10 meters high are forecast for Jalisco.
National Civil Protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente warned residents of homes with windows facing the ocean to stay away from them. He also warned against being inside a vehicle when the storm strikes.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong urged Jalisco residents, particularly those in Puerto Vallarta and the Bay of Banderas area, to take extreme caution and be aware of warnings and recommendations from state and federal authorities.
“No one knows what we are going be faced with; it’s becoming progressively more alarming,” he said, offering the warning that a cold front from the U.S. could increase the hurricane’s force.
Early this morning, evacuations began in zones of Puerto Vallarta deemed high risk. Officials were going door-to-door to advise citizens that they would have to take refuge in shelters. Businesses were being told close their doors as all commercial activities were to be suspended.
Emergency protocols have been enacted to put more than 10,000 police, soldiers and others on alert, including 2,500 employees of the Federal Electricity Commission.
An emergency has been declared in 10 municipalities in Colima, 34 in Jalisco and 11 in Nayarit where the number of people at risk has been estimated at 400,000. In those three states as well as Michoacán officials have readied 1,782 emergency shelters to accommodate 258,000 people.
The airports in Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta have been closed, officials said.
Patricia’s strengthening from a Category 1 hurricane has been fast. Early yesterday it was rated Category 1 with winds of 135 km/h.