Patricia: The worst hurricane ever could devastate my second home

Patricia: The worst hurricane ever could devastate my second home
Beach town Barra de Navidad was damaged by Hurricane Jova in 2011. (Photo by Mark Butkus)

From my living room in Chicago, I have been glued to The Weather Channel all morning watching the track of Patricia, at 200 mph the strongest hurricane ever recorded.

Later tonight it is expected to make landfall somewhere between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. This stretch of western Mexico is dotted with small beach towns that I know well.

La Manzanilla, Barra de Navidad and Melaque, are part of a region called the Costalegre, ironically the Happy Coast. This is a region that I consider my second home.

These communities are Mexican fishing villages but they also are home to thousands of American and Canadian expatriates. Some are retired and live there year-round, and thousands more head south to spend the winter months in these small coastal villages.

My Christmas plans are to go back to Mexico, but now I'm not sure what will be left.

All morning I have been on Facebook urging my friends who live there to evacuate. I have sent messages. "It's the worst hurricane ever! Evacuate! Get out!"

But I have more than a dozen friends who have not left yet.

According to the local message boards, as of this morning there have been no sirens in their small town telling them to get out. And by the time the sirens ring it may be too late.

But according to news reports, resorts in Puerto Vallarta are being evacuated.

The eye of the storm is expected to hit between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, and up to 12 inches of rain could cause devastating flooding and even landslides.

Many people I know live in single story homes and if the rain rushes in they will have nowhere to go.

Patricia is expected to be more powerful than Hurricane Camille that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in 1969, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and many others.

Mexico's government seems to be responding slow at least in the small towns, and after the flooding these areas are likely to be cut off. Bridges have collapsed in weaker storms such as Hurricane Jova in 2011. This hurricane, a Category 2, caused massive infrastructure damage and the consequences are still being felt.

Getting food, water and medical care will be a challenge after the hurricane hits.

Mexico is going to need help from organizations such as the Red Cross and other relief agencies. The U.S. government also should assist as this could become a major humanitarian crisis.

Right now all I can do is wait and still urge my friends to evacuate. One friend told me via Facebook she can't leave her animals behind.  I have begged her to evacuate or at least get to higher ground.

My heart breaks thinking about what could happen.

And all I can do is pray.

Filed under: Mexico

Tags: hurricane, Jova, Mexico, Patricia, weather

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