The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Category 5 Hurricane Patricia is the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western hemisphere as it lumbers toward Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Dave Roberts, a hurricane specialist at the Hurricane Center, said Friday morning that the storm is the strongest one they’ve seen in the eastern Pacific or in the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds near 200 mph (325 kph).
The Hurricane Center is predicting a “potentially catastrophic landfall” in southwestern Mexico later in the day.
Though it is expected to weaken Friday, it should make landfall on the Pacific coast near Punta San Telmo late in the day as an extremely dangerous storm.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion today,” the center said.
As of late Thursday night, the storm was about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Manzanillo, Mexico, moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
A hurricane warning is in effect on Mexico’s Pacific Coast from San Blas to Punta San Telmo, an area that includes the resort cities of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
Officials in Jalisco and Colima states said they were canceling schools as the storm neared.
Patricia is expected to bring heavy rainfall, destructive waves and powerful winds, forecasters said.