by Michael J. Shapiro | October 23, 2015
The Mexican states of Colima, Jalisco, Michoacán and Nayarit are bracing for Hurricane Patricia, expected to make landfall late Friday evening on Mexico's Pacific Coast. Patricia is a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest on record in the Western Hemisphere, with maximum sustained winds of 200 mph. Puerto Vallarta, the largest resort city in the region, has been following preventative measures since yesterday, when the hurricane intensified from Category 1 to Category 5 status.

The state of Jalisco has placed special operations in Puerto Vallarta, comprised of federal, state and municipal police, fire department personnel and emergency medical services. Evacuation of tourists and residents began yesterday, Oct. 22; the majority of visitors and residents from the historic center and hotel zone have been moved. Buses have taken many to Guadalajara, the state capital, several hours inland. Approximately 16 shelters in safe areas around Puerto Vallarta also have been established, according to the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board. The airport has been closed since Friday morning and will remain so until further notice. 

"There is no reason for Patricia to weaken significantly before making landfall," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Becky Elliott, "so the southwest coast of Mexico will likely be experiencing wind gusts of 185 mph or greater late Friday into Friday night." A colleague of Elliot's, Mike Smith, compared Hurricane Patricia to a 15-20-mile wide tornado, given the strength of its sustained wind speed and gusts.

Beyond the potentially catastrophic damage to the coastal areas northwest of Manzanillo, Colima, where the hurricane is expected to make landfall, flooding downpours could occur into the weekend in Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara, as the system moves between the two cities, according to AccuWeather. The system will move into Northern Mexico later in the weekend, and then potentially contribute to flash flooding in Texas and Louisiana.