By ABC NEWS.
Hurricane Patricia, the most powerful tropical storm measured in the Western Hemisphere, has struck Mexico’s coast, tearing down trees, moving cars and forcing thousands to flee beachside homes and resorts.
The category five hurricane made landfall at Playa Perula in the state of Jalisco, Mexico’s meteorological service said, packing maximum sustained winds of 270 kilometres per hour, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.
The hurricane made landfall in the town of Emiliano Zapata, about 95 kilometres west of the major port of Manzanillo, National Water Commission director Roberto Ramirez told Milenio television.
— Oscar Flores (@omegarelojes) October 23, 2015
The NHC said Patricia weakened marginally at landfall. Hours earlier, the hurricane peaked with winds of 325 kilometres per hour, even more powerful than the 315-kilometre-per-hour winds of Super Hyphoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 dead or missing when it struck the Philippines in November 2013. “We are facing a natural phenomenon, a force that we have never seen before,” president Enrique Pena Nieto told Radio Formula earlier in the day. “We will face difficult moments.” Warning of a “threat of great scale” Mr Pena Nieto said the government’s priority was to “protect and save the lives of Mexicans”. The US Hurricane Centre has warned that Patricia was a “potentially catastrophic” hurricane and US president Barack Obama said disaster aid experts were on the ground and primed to help. National disaster fund director Jose Maria Tapia Franco, said 400,000 people were living in vulnerable areas. There were no initial reports of casualties after the storm hit.
Thousands of tourists caught in hurricane threat.
Mexican authorities evacuated residents and closed ports and schools in several states ahead of the arrival of the hurricane.
Shops shut in the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta, north of where Patricia made landfall, and shop owners attached duct tape to their windows for protection.
“I’ve had to give away tape to people who weren’t prepared,” frame shop owner Ramiro Arias said.
“We’re procrastinators. We don’t react until we see the situation.”
Some 7,000 foreign and 21,000 Mexican tourists were in Puerto Vallarta ahead of the storm, Jalisco state tourism secretary Enrique Ramos Flores said.
Seafront hotels were evacuated and an unknown number of tourists were rushed to shelters, the airport and bus stations.
Federal officials said 3,500 people were evacuated from Puerto Vallarta by bus and plane.
A Red Cross facility turned into a shelter for 109 people in Puerto Vallarta, including Americans, Canadians and Italians.
“I had the bad luck of being at the wrong place in the wrong time,” said Gian Paolo Azzena, a 26-year-old Italian medical school graduate.
“I found out that a hurricane was coming thanks to a craftsman. I thought it was a joke.”
A handful of people waited at a bus station before service ended at midday, while others bought water and loaded vehicles with jerry cans of fuel.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) October 23, 2015
Flash flood fears as super storm dumps rain.
While Patricia lashed the southern coast of Jalisco, it had yet to cause mayhem in Puerto Vallarta, where some 20 people were seen drinking at a beach bar earlier in the afternoon.
Allyna Vineberg, editor of local newspaper Puerto Vallarta Mirror, said the resort town in Jalisco was prepared for the arrival of the storm.
“There are no people on the streets, the people have been advised not to go out of their homes,” she said.
Patricia is expected to dump up to 51 centimetres of rain over five western Mexican states, which could produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
The National Water Commission said Patricia was “so big and intense” that it could cross the entire country, dip into the Gulf of Mexico, and make landfall in the United States.
Jalisco, Michoacan, Colima and Nayarit states are expected to get the equivalent of 40 percent of their annual rainfall in the next 48 hours, the water commission said.
Mexico faces the double threat of Atlantic and Pacific tropical storms during the hurricane season, which ends at the end of November.
This post originally appeared on ABC Online.
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