MIAMI (AP) — Patricia has strengthened into what the U.S. National Hurricane Center is calling a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 hurricane as it moves toward the Mexican coast.
The Center reported late Thursday that Patricia’s maximum sustained winds had grown to 160 mph (260 kph). The storm was located about 200 miles (320 kms) southwest of the port of Manzanillo, Mexico, and was moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
The center said that on the current forecast track, Patricia is expected to make landfall Friday afternoon or evening.
Rain began to fall after dark in Manzanillo, one of the country’s principal ports, ahead of an expected landfall. Luis Felipe Puente, Mexico’s civil defense coordinator, said schools would be closed in Colima state, which is home to Manzanillo.
“We are calm,” said Gabriel Lopez, a worker at Las Hadas Hotel in the city. “We don’t know what direction (the storm) will take, but apparently it’s headed this way. … If there is an emergency we will take care of the people. There are rooms that are not exposed to wind or glass.”
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami warned that preparations should be rushed to completion, saying the storm could cause coastal flooding, destructive waves and flash floods.
“This is an extremely dangerous, potentially catastrophic hurricane,” center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said.
Luz Adriana Limon Rojas of Colima state’s civil defense agency said the area has problems with drainage during storms.
“The neighborhood leaders have come for sacks to fill with sand,” she said.
The federal government declared a state of emergency for 56 municipalities in the storm’s projected path, in the states of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the Mexican coast from San Blas to Punta San Telmo, a stretch of coast that includes Manzanillo. A broader area was under hurricane watch, tropical storm warning, or tropical storm watch.
The Hurricane Center said Patricia was expected to bring rainfall of 6 to 12 inches, with isolated amounts of up to 20 inches in some locations.
Feltgen said Patricia also poses problems for Texas. Forecast models indicate that after the storm breaks up over land, remnants of its tropical moisture will likely combine with and contribute to heavy rainfall that is already soaking Texas independently of the hurricane, he said.
“It’s only going to make a bad situation worse,” he said.
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