NEWS

Hurricane Patricia batters Mexico but leaves behind less damage than expected and no deaths

Hurricane Patricia formed on October 20th in the Pacific Ocean, and quickly intensified to a Category 5 storm. The storm made landfall on Friday, October 23rd, and by the afternoon of October 24th, the storm had been degraded to a low pressure system – a lower classification than a tropical storm. Hurricane Patricia produced the highest windspeeds and lowest pressures ever recorded in a storm in the Western Hemisphere, and it was to drop 6-12 inches of rain across Mexico, and up to 20 inches in some locations.

Patricia Debris
Debris washed ashore by Hurricane Patricia (Presidencia de la República Mexicana)

Hurricane Patricia made landfall on the Pacific coast between two large coastal centers: Puerto Vallarta, a resort city, and Manzanillo, Mexico’s largest Pacific container port. The storm hit “impoverished communities” in the mountainous region between the two cities, leading to flooding and mudslides in the region. Although the overall damage is not as severe as it could have been, for the small villages that were hit, “it could take much time to recover from even moderate damage.”

The New York Times reports “mangled telephone wires,” damaged traffic signs, and streets full of debris from surrounding vegetation, though the Ministry of Communications and Transportation holds that there is no significant damage to telecommunications infrastructure. “Many people” were left without water or electricity on Saturday. The highway between Guadalajara and Manzanillo “appeared generally unfazed,” while other, more coastal roadways were blocked off due to mudslides.

Experts say that the lack of damage in Patricia’s wake is due to “a combination of luck” (in terms of the storm’s path) and “capable planning.” The mountains near where it made landfall “sapped” the strength of the storm, and the speed with which the storm grew prevented a large storm surge from forming. Mexico’s emergency planning, including evacuation orders, advisories to stay indoors, and emergency warnings by television, radio, work of mouth, and social media, was well received, and the population’s attention contributed to the lack of casualties.

Sources and Further Reading:

1. Hurricane Patricia Recap: Strongest Landfalling Pacific Hurricane on Record – The Weather Channel
2. ‘Potentially catastrophic’ Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded, makes landfall in Mexico – Washington Post
3. No major damage as Hurricane Patricia remnants move north – USA Today
4. Mexico spared major damage by giant storm – New York Times