Thousands of people have been evacuated from Mexico’s west coast as Hurricane Patricia barrelled towards land as a dangerous Category 5 storm. Damaging winds, torrential rain and life-threatening floods are all anticipated.
The storm is currently located about 250km to the southwest of Manzanillo with sustained winds of 325kph and gusts approaching 400kph. This makes it the strongest east Pacific hurricane on record. Those records go back to 1959.
The storm has strengthened at an incredible rate. In the space of only 36 hours it went from a weak tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane.
Hurricanes rarely maintain such strength for more than 24 hours, but with sea-surface temperatures at near-record levels of warmth, Patricia may well maintain its top ranking right up to landfall.
The system is expected to come ashore around 00:00GMT on Saturday somewhere near the border between the western states of Jalisco and Colima. This region includes the major port of Manzanillo.
Schools along the west coast have been closed and authorities have even taken the precaution of draining two dams in Jalisco and Michoacan in an attempt to reduce the anticipated widespread flooding.
Ports along the coastline have been closed to small boats. Even port of Acapulco in Guerrero has been shut for larger ships.
Parts of the coastline could receive up to 40 per cent of their annual rainfall this weekend with totals expected to be in the region of 300 to 500mm of rain over the next 48 hours.
By the end of the weekend, Patricia will be dumping huge amounts of rain on southern Texas. Floods are also likely here as warm moist air gets drawn from the tropics over the US border and right across the Great Plains.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies