Hurricane Patricia is the largest recorded wester hemisphere hurricane ever recorded, advancing from a tropical storm to a hurricane with winds over two hundred miles per hour in less than a day. Patricia broke both the windspeed record and the barometric pressure record, dropping down to 879 millibars at the eye of the storm, compared to a regular day where the barometric pressure is 1014 millibars. This record breaking hurricane made landfall about 6:15 October 23 CDT (Central Daylight Time), with sustained winds going up to one hundred sixty five miles an hour, although a Mexican weather observatory reported a two hundred eleven mile an hour gust.
Patricia may have been a record breaking hurricane, but the massive storm was broken up in about 23 hours by the rough and mountainous terrain of Mexico, going from a category five hurricane to a remnant low, the remains of a hurricane with winds under 40 miles an hour. The storm was the fastest to intensify and the fastest to dissipate in all of meteorological history.
An easier way to think about this, is to compare it to a more well known hurricane, i.e. hurricane Katrina. Patricia may be larger in size, but the size of a hurricane is not what counts, in fact the eye of the storm is a better indicator of the possible destruction that a hurricane may cause, Patricia had an eye only a quarter of the size of Katrina, despite that Patricia had winds some twenty five miles per hour faster and a barometric pressure 23 millibars lower than Katrina’s 902 millibars. Overall Patricia is an incredibly large storm, dwarfing Katrina in size matters, Katrina was able to last significantly longer than Patricia because of the Mexican mountains, which tore through Patricia in under a day, while Katrina had a long flat stretch through the Great Plains to wreak havoc.
Although some of Mexico’s most populated cities are right on the coast, hurricane Patricia made landfall just between these two cities, just barely striking Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta, the major coastal cities of Mexico. Although the rainfall caused heavy flooding, and mudslides, the damage could have been much worse, a hurricane in the fifties followed a path similar to Patricia, causing nearly two thousand deaths. Mexico is lucky that the rough mountains and valleys broke up this hurricane before it managed to cause too much damage.