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Meteorologist explains what makes Hurricane Patricia 'potentially catastrophic'




Tropical storm force wind speed probabilities for Hurricane Patricia for the 120 hours (5 days) from 5 AM PDT Fri Oct 23 to 5 AM PDT Wed Oct 28 (Accessed 9AM PDT Fri Oct 23).
Tropical storm force wind speed probabilities for Hurricane Patricia for the 120 hours (5 days) from 5 AM PDT Fri Oct 23 to 5 AM PDT Wed Oct 28 (Accessed 9AM PDT Fri Oct 23).
NOAA

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Mexico is bracing for Hurricane Patricia today.

The Category 5 storm is now heading directly towards the coast of southwestern Mexico, a region including the state of Jalisco and the resort town of Puerto Vallarta. Officials say it will make landfall later today.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says with maximum sustained winds near 200 miles per hour, Patricia is the strongest storm ever recorded in the eastern Pacific or in the Atlantic.

Rosy Cordero, an L.A.-based writer, arrived in Puerto Vallarta on Wednesday and had been planning to stay through Saturday. Unable to get a flight out before the airport closed today, she boarded a bus to Guadalajara, hoping to be able to fly out from there this weekend.

Cordero said she felt that she and other tourists who were on their way out of Puerto Vallarta were safe, but was more concerned for the city's residents. 

"When we left there were still people getting the hotels secured and safe," Cordero said, "and meanwhile I'm sure they all have families who they'd much rather be with... It's a city by the sea, and you know they have mountains and everything, but they're going to get a beating. And I just pray for their safety."

For the people who are still there in the Puerto Vallarta area, U.S. National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen says, "At this point in time, the preparation is over. Tropical storm force winds are already occurring in the warning area. And those tropical storm force winds will be increasing to hurricane force winds as we get into the early afternoon local time. It's too late to run from it, it's too late to prepare for it, wherever they are right now is where they need to be."

The kind of damage the storm might cause, Feltgen says, "in a word, is catastrophic."

While the 200 mph winds will only extend about 15 miles out from the eye of the hurricane, rather than across a huge area of coastline, Feltgen says, "unless a building is specifically built to sustain that kind of wind, they're not going to survive."

To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.