October 25, 2015

Hurricane Patricia—the strongest hurricane ever recorded—made landfall on Friday without causing the catastrophic damage that many had anticipated. That lack of destruction is in large part due to the storm’s record winds staying confined to a small area and hitting a relatively unpopulated region.

And while Hurricane Patricia avoided the most populated places along the coast, experts said that the storm had caused widespread damage in the area it did hit, including mud slides, flooding and power outages. Officials in the more densely populated areas, like Puerto Vallarta, also appeared to follow preparation practices that would diminish the chances of injuries or death.

While the damage caused by Patricia may not scratch the record books, its strength certainly will. The storm’s winds reached 200 miles per hour Friday before making landfall.
Patricia went from tropical storm, the lowest category in the Saffir-Simpson scale, to Category 5, the top of the scale, in about a day. Then it kept going, exceeding the Category 5 threshold by 45 mph and breaking the intensity record for any Eastern Pacific or Atlantic Hurricane.

Experts said that the result was a combination of luck — the storm, for instance, passed between two cities but hit neither directly — and capable planning in a country that had learned from past disasters.

Return to Top