Early Friday, the behemoth Hurricane Patricia became the strongest hurricane ever measured by the National Hurricane Center. Patricia is forecast to make landfall on Mexico’s west central coast late Friday with destructive winds, torrents of rain, and a devastating storm surge.
The Category 5 storm’s maximum sustained winds strengthened to an astonishing 200 mph. “This makes Patricia the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins,” NHC said. “The minimum central pressure estimated from the aircraft data, 880 mb, is the lowest ever for our AOR.”
The storm may even strengthen a little more. Officially, the NHC predicts Patricia will have peak winds of 205 mph when it strikes land, which would be the strongest ever recorded, anywhere in the world, including Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with peak winds of 195 mph.
On Thursday, Hurricane Patricia explosively intensified from a tropical storm to a monstrous category five hurricane with 160 mph winds.
The rate of the storm’s intensification in day’s time is nothing short of historic. In the process, Patricia morphed from a loosely organized conglomeration of thunderstorms to the planet’s strongest and most wicked class of storm.
“Patricia is estimated to have intensified 85 kt [100 mph] in the past 24 hours,” the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. update Thursday. “This is a remarkable feat, with only Linda of 1997 intensifying at this rate in the satellite era.”
Centered 145 miles offshore the west coast of central of Mexico, Patricia threatens to come ashore somewhere between San Blas and Punta San Telmo, where a hurricane warning is in effect. This zone includes the resort town of Puerto Vallarta, with a population of just over 200,000 people.
(National Hurricane Center)
“Confidence is increasing that Patricia will make landfall in the hurricane warning area as an extremely dangerous major hurricane Friday afternoon or evening,” stated the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in a special advisory issued at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday.
The storm has been able to achieve its historic intensity by developing over some of the warmest ocean temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, over 86 degrees.
Tropical storms conditions have begun in the hurricane warning area.
The worst conditions are expected Friday afternoon and evening, when destructive winds are likely. Patricia is also forecast to produce 6-12 inches of rainfall, with isolated amounts to 20 inches, particularly in higher terrain.