Hurricane Patricia was forecasted to bring catastrophic damage to Mexico’s coast and put the popular tourist destination of Puerto Vallarta on high alert.
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Friday afternoon forecasters said that Hurricane Patricia was the strongest hurricane ever recorded packing winds of over 200 MPH, many referring to the storm as a Category 6 storm on a scale 1-5.
For two days Hurricane Patricia was expected to bring 3-5 meter storm surges, 10 inches of rain, and hurricane force winds to Puerto Vallarta when it made landfall between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta late Friday afternoon.
Throughout the day Thursday and Friday city, state, and federal governments worked together to organize the evacuation of over 10,000 tourists in hotels around the city. Tourists were shuttled to evacuation centers around the city.
Local businesses boarded, taped, and sandbagged their storefronts and closed for business on Friday. The airport in Puerto Vallarta shut down Friday and the state Department of Transportation lifted all tolls for the toll road leading to Guadalajara to help manage evacuation delays along the busy route.
Friday afternoon Civil Protection started announcements along the coastal areas for people to evacuate, leaving the streets a virtual ghost town by 2:00 PM. Authorities, including the state governor, were present in Puerto Vallarta to help mobilize the efforts and recommend people seek shelter and remain indoors after the 2 o’clock hour. Many people complained that evacuation centers announced by the city were locked up when they arrived.
Hotels shuttled nearly 300 guests to the Puerto Vallarta Convention Center on the recommendation of the city, however when they arrived they were turned away. Eventually the tourists were shuttled to the Puerto Vallarta campus of the University of Guadalajara.
Hurricane Patricia made landfall 140 miles south of Puerto Vallarta at 7:00 PM as a category 5 storm. Throughout the day Puerto Vallarta experienced light to moderate rains and winds, by landfall the weather had changed very little in the area. By midnight most people were able to breathe a sigh of relief as it became more clear that Puerto Vallarta had been spared from the worst Hurricane Patricia had to offer.
There were no reports of major damage in the city of Puerto Vallarta.
Residents of the coast where Patricia made landfall in Barra de Navidad describe an enraged sea crashing into hotels, scooping beach away from their foundations, and howling winds that toppled trees and telephone posts.
Domingo Hernandez is a watchman at the Hotel Barra de Navidad in the resort village of the same name. He says “waves were coming into the hotel,” and adds that “All the streets here in town are full of downed trees all over the place.”
He describes Patricia as the strongest storm he’s seen in a quarter century of living on the coast.