A potentially catastrophic hurricane is expected to make landfall in Jalisco, Mexico on Friday night, or perhaps in the early hours of Saturday morning. (Jalisco is a state located in the southwest of the country.) With sustained winds of 200 mph, Patricia is the strongest storm of any kind ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.
Storm winds from Patricia are comparable to a tornado; this is extremely unusual for a hurricane. Unfortunately, the duration of the winds will far exceed those of a tornado—lasting hours, not minutes.
To put things into perspective: Large commercial aircraft need to be moving at a speed of 160-180 mph to become airborne.
This means that personal vehicles, telephones and planes could become projectiles. In fact, trees may even be pulled from the ground and flung through the air.
Ernst Kiesling, executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association points out that most of the structures in Jalisco are ill-equipped to handle such battering winds.
What has led to such an anomaly?
According to a report released by NASA, “rising sea levels exacerbated Sandy’s storm surge, for example, a direct link between global warming and storm damage. And abnormally high sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic probably intensified the storm.”
American disaster experts have been deployed to aid the 7.5 million residents of Jalisco.
Tens of thousands of citizens have already evacuated.
In 2013, Mexico was ravaged by Hurricane Ingrid (Category 1), which restricted access to Acapulco. Hurricane Odile (Category 3) hit the country in September of 2014, destroying the infrastructure of Los Cabos, a city on the southern tip of Baja California Sur. This rendered many basic services unavailable for a week.
The strength of both of these storms, however, pale in comparison to Patricia.