The headlines were terrifying. Hurricane Patricia, which at one point was the strongest hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere, could potentially devastate Mexico when it hit the country’s Pacific coast as a Category 5 storm. So far, though, it seems initial reports are cautiously optimistic as major cities appear to have been largely spared, reports Reuters. By Saturday morning, Patricia had been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Although flash floods and landslides have been reported, the “mass evacuations that occurred prior to the hurricane's arrival appeared to have worked in saving lives,” notes USA Today. “The first reports confirm that the damage has been less than those expected from a hurricane of this magnitude,” President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a taped address late Friday. He warned, however, that “we cannot yet let our guard down.”
“It's amazing it went from the worst in history to just some heavy rain,” Susanna Sokol, a U.S. tourist, tells the Associated Press. Even if it was not as bad some feared, Patricia still caused plenty of damage. “It sparked chaos here, it ruined a lot of things, took down the roof, lots of trees. Things are in a bad state where we work,” a hotel worker in the resort of Barra de Navidad near to the major port of Manzanillo tells Reuters.
Experts warn that since the storm hit some of the country’s least populated areas, it could take longer for reports of casualties to arrive. Plus the rain could cause more damage in Mexico’s mountainous areas. “A large swath of Mexico will be at risk of torrential rainfall and mudslides as Patricia moves northward, and potentially could cause more damage than Patricia’s winds,” an expert tells the Wall Street Journal.
Patricia made landfall as a Category 5 storm but quickly lost force and was downgraded to a Category 2 with winds of about 100 miles per hour at around 1 a.m. Saturday, details the New York Times.