The Largest Yet


Image courtesy of NASA

Graydon Slusher, Staff Writer

Most people were worried about getting candy ready for Halloween on October 20th, but the people of Mexico had to deal with the most intense tropical cyclone ever documented in the Western Hemisphere. It was the strongest based on reliably measured maximum sustained winds. Originating from a small disturbance near the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Patricia was first classified a tropical depression on October 20th.

Development was slow at first, with only small strengthening during the first day of its discovery. The system later became a tropical cyclone and was named Patricia. Extraordinary environmental conditions acted as gas and led to explosive intensification on October 22nd.

“It scares me how fast things like this can get out of hand,” said Kage Solovic, a student at GCHS.

A well-defined center developed within an intense central overcast and Patricia grew from a tropical cyclone to a Category 5 hurricane in just 24 hours—it was near-record speed. Early on October 23th, hurricane watchers revealed the cyclone to have gained record maximum sustained winds of 200 mph. GCHS student Andrew McMichael said, “The fact that it sustained 200 mph winds is very unsettling to me.”

The precursor to Patricia made widespread heavy storms in Central America. Thousands of people were affected by the storm, mostly in Guatemala. At least 6 deaths were discovered, four in El Salvador, one in Nicaragua, and one in Guatemala. Destructive rains extended into Mexico, with reported accumulations of almost 20 inches. Damage reached 1.4 billion pesos or $84 million dollars.

Patricia’s effects in Mexico were huge; however, the affected areas were mostly rural. This lessened the chance for it to be considered a large-scale disaster. Disastrous winds ripped roofs from houses and stripped coastal areas of their plants. Most assessments indicate hundreds of houses demolished and only seven fatalities are linked directly to the hurricane. Total damage is estimated to be in excess of 3.3 billion pesos, with farm crops suffering the biggest loss. Hundreds of people were affected and this is one of the worst natural disasters that has affected Mexico to date.