Hurricane Patricia weakens as it makes landfall
Hurricane Patricia, hailed as the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, made landfall in Mexico at 6.15 pm local time. Patricia hit the Mexican coast as a Category 5 storm sporting winds of 265km/h, but weakened to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155km/h. Rapid weakening is expected over the next 48 hours. No casualties have been reported yet.
The categorisation of hurricanes is based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The weakest- Category 1, has wind speeds ranging between 119-153 km/h, while the strongest- Category 5, sports wind speeds above 252 km/h.
Hurricane Patricia had its origins in a disturbance near the Gulf of Tehuantepec on the Pacific coast of Southern Mexico in mid-October 2015. On 20 October 2015, Patricia was first classified as a tropical depression. On 22 October 2015, owing to exceptional environmental conditions, Patricia underwent an explosive intensification and developed into a massive Category 5 hurricane in around 24 hours.
Top-ranking Mexican officials and President Peña Nieto met on 22 October to discuss preventive measures. According to reports, over 1,780 storm shelters were set up for over 240,000 people. A 50,000-strong force was mobilized in the states of Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit, which got the most dire hurricane warnings. All flights to and from Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta were suspended for the time being.
Shortly after the midnight on 23 October 2015, Hurricane Patricia became the strongest recorded hurricane in earth with wind speeds above 200 mph. The previous record holder was Super Typhoon Haiyan with 195 mph winds which struck the Philippines in 2013.
Hurricane Patricia is expected to dump 20-30 cm of rainfall on affected areas. According to the US National Hurricane Centre, rainfall from Patricia could trigger "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides." The Mexican government has also warned that ash from the Colima volcano could combine with rain to produce huge mudflows. Around 400,000 people are potentially at risk according to Mexico's National Disaster Fund.
Only one hurricane in record has ever made landfall on Mexico's Pacific coast as a Category 5 storm prior to Hurricane Patricia. That hurricane followed a similar path and struck Puerto Vallerto in October 1959 causing around 1800 deaths.