Feared Mexican megastorm downsizes dramatically

Hurricane Patricia weakens quickly after hitting coast and causes less damage than expected, but still threatens Texas.

Flooding and landslides continue to pose risks, but Mexico has remained relatively unscathed after Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, crossed the country on Saturday.

There were no early reports of deaths and it appeared major damage was averted as Patricia missed tourist centres like Puerto Vallarta and the major cargo port of Manzanillo after making landfall as a Category 5 storm on Friday evening.

Al Jazeera meteorologist Everton Fox explains Hurricane Patricia

Hurricane Patricia hit a sparsely populated area of the country and rapidly lost power as it moved inland.

By Saturday afternoon, it had degenerated from a tropical depression into a remnant low with maximum winds down to about 48km/h, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

That was down from the nearly 325km/h maximum winds that were recorded prior to the storm hitting the coast on Friday.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said late Friday that early reports “confirm that the damage has been smaller than that corresponding to a hurricane of this magnitude”.

“We can’t let our guard down yet,” he cautioned, noting that more rain was coming.

Risk of landslides

By Saturday, Patricia had weakened to a tropical depression over north-central Mexico, dumping heavy rain that triggered flooding and landslides.

Streets were flooded in some parts of the country and hundreds of trees were uprooted after Patricia came ashore in the Pacific coast state of Jalisco.

Patricia was expected to produce up to 510mm of rain over the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, and Guerrero, which officials said were likely to produce flash floods and mudslides.

Hurricane Patricia prior to making landfall in Mexico on Friday evening [NASA]

Authorities have warned the 50,000 people evacuated to stay put until the storm has completely cleared.

The storm had grown into the strongest hurricane ever recorded hours before reaching the coast, raising fears that it would bring death and destruction across the country.

Al Jazeera’s meteorologist Everton Fox said the storm strengthened at an incredible rate from Thursday into Friday.

“In the space of only 36 hours, it went from a weak tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane,” he said.

The storm system is now expected to move into the US state of Texas, where US President Barack Obama said US disaster aid experts were on the ground and primed to help.

Texas saw heavy rains overnight from a separate storm system that caused flooding powerful enough to knock over a freight train.

Officials said moisture from Patricia would increase the intensity of rain swamping parts of the state by Sunday.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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