Patricia to hit Mexico as a major hurricane with flooding rain, damaging winds
Patricia, which intensified into a Category 4 hurricane Thursday midday local time, will bring the threat for flooding and a risk to lives across much of Mexico through the end of the week.
The combination of moving over warm ocean waters and lower wind shear allowed Tropical Depression 20-E to take shape on Tuesday just south of Mexico's southern coastline. The depression continued to strengthen and became Hurricane Patricia Wednesday night.
Patricia has been making an influence on Latin America since Sunday, as it helped to provide moisture to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. San Jose, Guatemala, reported more than 387 mm (15.25 inches) of rain Sunday through Wednesday.
The hurricane will threaten southwestern Mexico this weekend.
A Category 1 hurricane moving ashore is dangerous enough, but a Category 4 storm is an entirely different matter. This escalates the amount of rain, wind and seas to hit the area.
Currently a Category 4 hurricane, Patricia is expected to reach the Mexico coast as a Category 4 or Category 3 hurricane.
"Currently, Patricia is expected to make landfall sometime Friday evening along the southern coast of Mexico, just northwest of the city of Manzanillo," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis.
"Areas along the coast can anticipate damaging winds and power outages," said Travis. This is in addition to the surge of tropical moisture that will likely bring an elevated risk for flash flooding and mudslides.
With a forecast path just to the west of Manzanillo, storm surge will also be a concern for the city and other points off to the east and south. High winds from the southwest could funnel a great deal of water into the bay areas as the center moves inland.
"Manzanillo sits right in the center of a bay," AccuWeather Meteorologist Rob Miller explains. "Even though much of the city is not situated right on the beach, a significant storm surge of 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet) is likely."
The storm surge can be locally higher.
Property owners and those vacationing at the resorts right along the bays should be prepared for inundation.
More than 300 mm (about 12 inches) of rain is possible, especially right near where the hurricane makes landfall. The Mexican states of Jalisco and Colima will likely have the heaviest rain, as well as the strongest wind speeds.
Although Patricia could reach the coastline as hurricane, significant weakening is expected once the center of the storm moves inland.
"After battering the coast, Patricia will need to move over the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains to continue northward," Travis added. "Trying to cross the mountains will weaken the system fairly quickly."
In addition to these mountains that are just inland from Manzanillo, there will be more vibrant terrain to cross as the system moves inland.
"The system will end up over a spot where the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains collide with the Sierra Madre Occidentals and the Trans Volcanic Belt," Miller said. "So it will be hard for Patricia to hold onto its strength."
Even though the tropical feature will be shredded apart by the mountainous terrain of central Mexico, moisture will be pulled northward bringing the threat for flooding to northeastern Mexico this weekend.
Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara are also at risk for flooding downpours into the weekend as the tropical system moves in between the two cities.
"The heaviest rain will likely stay to the west of Guadalajara, but the city could still get as much as 50 to 100 mm (2 to 4 inches) of rain," Miller added.
While Mexico City may miss the heaviest rainfall, daily thunderstorms are possible through this weekend with downpours capable of producing localized flash flooding.
Mountainous regions across central and southwestern Mexico could get several hundred millimeters (3 to 8 inches) of rain, leading to widespread flash flooding and mudslides. A front across part of the United States will start to pick up Patricia's moisture by late in the day Saturday and quickly sweep it up to northeastern Mexico for the end of the weekend. The steadiest rain is expected to reach the cities of Saltillo and Monterrey by Sunday.
As this tropical moisture continues to be pulled northward, the front will combine with Patricia's moisture to create an elevated threat for flooding in Texas and Oklahoma.