The strongest storm ever recorded in the Western hemisphere has hit the west coast of Mexico. Packing winds of more than 300 kilometers per hour, there are fears of 'catastrophic' consequences from the storm.
Hurricane Patricia, one of the most powerful hurricanes in history, struck Mexico's west coast at about 6pm local time on Friday. Patricia remained a Category 5 hurricane at landfall.
Described by the country's meteorological service as a potentially catastrophic storm, Patricia threatened to wreak widespread damage.
Spokeswoman for Mexico's meteorological service, Pamela Garcia, said Patricia hit near Punta Perula between the resort town of Puerto Vallarta and the major cargo port of Manzanillo.
The Category 5 winds were occurring over a 24 kilometer (15 mile) area at the center of the hurricane. Hurricane force winds extended up to 50 kilometers from the center and tropical storm force winds up to 280 kilomers from the center of the hurricane.
Waves of up to 12 meters were forecast.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a radio interview "One thing we're certain of is that we're facing a hurricane of a scale we've never ever seen."
Thousands of people had been evacuated from coastal resorts and locations by the time the hurricane made landfall. Hundreds of flights had been canceled and residents were told to find shelter.
Patricia is expected to dump 200 to 300 millimeters of rain over the Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero.
Patricia became the most powerful tropical cyclone ever measured in the Western Hemisphere on Friday morning as its maximum sustained winds reached an unprecedented 200 mph (320 kph) while it was still over the Pacific Ocean.
It also holds the record for the lowest pressure in any hurricane on record. With a minimum central pressure of 880 millibars, Patricia broke the record of 882 millibars set by Hurricane Wilma which hit the Yucatan Peninsular of Mexico, Cuba and the US state of Florida almost ten years ago.
From 401 km above Earth on the International Space Station, US astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted: "Stay safe below, Mexico."
jm/bw (AP, Reuters, AFP)