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The strongest hurricane in history is making landfall near the popular resort destination of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Hurricane Patricia is designated as a Category-5 storm, characterized by winds higher than 157 mph. Patricia has been clocked at more than 200 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, and the organization says no stronger hurricane has ever been recorded in the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific Basins. It made landfall about 55 miles west-northwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, with winds clocked at 165 mph, but high winds are expected to continue and possibly build.
According to Mexican officials, Hurricane Patricia is only the second Category-5 storm since they began keeping records in 1949 — the last Category 5 occurred in 1959 near Manzanillo, also along the wWest coast of Mexico, and caused flooding and mudslides that killed around 1,800 people.
Experts warn that the hurricane could cause 40-foot waves along the Southwestern Mexico coastline and that winds could do damage equivalent to an F5 tornado. Up to 20 inches of rain are expected in the states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero through Saturday. Life-threatening flash flooding, rip currents and mudslides are expected.
The Puerto Vallarta airport was closed early Friday as a precaution and vacationers were evacuated from the hotels. Some evacuees were flown to Mexico City. Some local bus evacuations were also shut down early Friday.
Last year, Hurricane Odile, which made landfall in Los Cabos, Mexico, on September 14, caused $1 billion in damages, about a dozen deaths and mass power outages. Nearly 27,000 people — mostly tourists — were airlifted out of the cape to mainland Mexico with special relief flights and the international airport remained closed for several weeks to commercial flights after the hurricane. Hurricane Odile devastated the tourism-reliant area and was only a Category 3 hurricane.
Texas and Louisiana are also expected to be affected by Hurricane Patricia, with 1 to 1.5 feet of rainfall in some parts of Texas through Sunday, and potential catastrophic flash flooding by Monday.