Hurricane Patricia became the strongest tropical cyclone ever measured early Friday as it barreled towards Mexico, according to NBC News. Identified as a Category 5 storm, Patricia intensified in the warm Pacific waters of Mexico, with maximum sustained winds measuring 200 mph. Experts warned that the storm could trigger 39-foot waves along Mexico’s southwestern coast. At around 5 a.m. Friday, the storm was located about 160 miles southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico.
The “potentially catastrophic” storm urged the Mexican government to declare a state of emergency and advise its citizens to prepare for the “worst-case scenario” as Hurricane Patricia is expected to make a landfall around 7 p.m. on Friday.
To better prepare its citizens, the Mexican government issued a series of emergency declarations and preparedness tips late Thursday following the storm warnings.
The National Hurricane Center said that Hurricane Patricia is expected to grow in strength before it hits the shore of Mexico, Buzzfeed reports. Forecasters also considered Patricia’s rapid growth “a remarkable feat,” also adding that only one other hurricane – Linda in 1997 – achieved such a dramatic change in intensity.
Alex Lamers, a meteorologist from Florida, presented figures from NHC showing how fast Hurricane Patricia intensified in the last 24 hours.
On top of 200 mph winds, what made Hurricane Patricia the strongest tropical cyclone ever measured in the satellite era is the low barometric pressure of 880 mb measured from outside the cyclone’s eye. Patricia is now considered the most powerful tropical cyclone in 2015.
“Given the very mountainous terrain that Patricia should encounter after landfall, the cyclone should weaken even faster over land than predicted by the normal inland decay rate.”
NHC said that up to 20-inches of rain is expected in Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero until Saturday.
NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins tweeted that Patricia “is now tied for 3rd strongest storm on our planet.”
Karins added that Hurricane Patricia might be “one of, if not the strongest, scariest hurricanes to ever hit Mexico.” He added that “catastrophic damage” is expected along the shoreline between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo when the storm hits around 7 p.m on Friday.
Karins said that Texas will experience 10-inches of rain over the next three days, adding that “what’s left of Patricia will make flooding in south Texas even worse” on Sunday.
Rogelio Estreda, spokesperson for the Grand Fiesta Americana Resort in Puerto Vallarta, told NBC News that evacuation warnings prompted citizens to evacuate the site at 7 a.m. local time (8 p.m. ET).
“We are expecting something bad, but maybe nothing will happen,” Estreda said. “It can change at any time.”
Jim Cantore, a certified broadcast meteorologist, tweeted meteorologic data accompanied by an image showing Hurricane Patricia’s path towards Mexico. His caption went, “Gold help these people in its path.”
Nick Wiltgen, senior digital meteorologist for the Weather Channel, said that Patricia has the strongest operational intensity in his 17 years as a professional.
Hurricane Patricia is the only Category 5 hurricane measured in the entire Pacific coast since recordkeeping started in 1949. In 1959, an unnamed storm barreled towards Manzanillo, causing an estimated 1,800 people, with 800 killed from mudslides alone.
[Image via weather.nsfc.nasa.gov]