Hurricane Patricia: Mexico braces for the 'most powerful storm ever measured'
It has been compared in strength to Typhoon Haiyan - which killed 6,300 in 2013
The western coast of Mexico is in the crosshairs of Hurricane Patricia, which was confirmed on Friday as the most powerful hurricane ever measured in the Western Hemisphere.
With wind speeds reaching upwards of 320 kph, the storm is forecast to make landfall in the Mexican state of Jalisco Friday evening.
It had been expected to weaken somewhat before hitting the Mexican coast but now the UN is warning that it has strengthen to a “potentially catastrophic Category 5 cyclone”, the highest possible rating for a hurricane.
“Hurricane Patricia, which is heading towards south-western Mexico, is now comparable to Typhoon Haiyan,” said the UN World Meteorological Organisation, referring to a storm that killed 6,300 people in the Philippines in 2013.
“Patricia has continued to strengthen overnight and has maximum sustained winds of about 295 km per hour,” warned WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis.
“The winds are enough to get a plane in the air and keep it flying.
“This is really, really, really strong. It's comparable with Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines with such devastating affect a couple of years ago."
Along with killing thousands, Typhoon Haiyan destroying around 90 pc of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province.
Patricia was last located about 295 km south-southwest of the port of Manzanillo, where a hurricane warning has been issued, but is thought to be moving north west towards the popular resort of city of Puerto Vallarta.
The United States government has issued an advisory urging its nationals to steer clear of beaches and rough seas and to take shelter as instructed by Mexican officials.
Mexican emergency officials have begun to prepare shelters and warned people in the states of Colima, Jalisco and Michoacan to get ready for torrential rainfalls.
Steady rain began to fall after dark in Manzanillo and Luis Felipe Puente, Mexico's civil defense co-ordinator, said schools would be closed in Colima state.
"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."
The US hurricane centre in Miami, Florida, 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," centre meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said.
Luz Adriana Limon Rojas of Colima state's civil defence agency said the area had problems with drainage during storms. "The neighborhood leaders have come for sacks to fill with sand," she said.
The government declared a state of emergency for 56 districts in the storm's projected path, in the states of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco.
By this morning, British time, Patricia's maximum sustained winds had increased to 160mph - a Category 5 storm - the highest designation on the Saffir-Simpson scale used to quantify a hurricane's wind strength.
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 centre said Patricia was expected to bring rainfall of six to 12 inches, with isolated amounts of up to 20 inches in some locations.
Mr Feltgen said Patricia also posed problems for Texas. Forecast models indicate that after the storm breaks up over land, remnants of its tropical moisture will probably combine with and contribute to heavy rainfall that is already soaking Texas independently of the hurricane.
"It's only going to make a bad situation worse," he said.