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expert reaction to Hurricane Patricia in Mexico

The strongest hurricane recorded at sea, named Patricia, hit the south west of Mexico on Friday evening local time, though it calmed somewhat by Saturday.


Prof. Pier Luigi Vidale, Professor of Climate System Science, University of Reading, said:

“The storm made landfall as Cat5, exactly as we predicted. The issue is exposure: luckily, it made landfall in a rather uninhabited region.

“The radius of maximum winds was extremely small (12km), so it fit very well in the space in-between Campo Acosta and La Barra de Navidad.

“A second eyewall formed right before landfall, with a radius of max winds of maybe 100km, but the distance between the two inhabited locations is just about 100km. The storm continued straight to Sierra del Cuale, passing only through uninhabited zones, and rapidly lost intensity.

“We could hardly have been luckier.

“For comparison, I listened to Prince Andrew’s story of his inspection to the levy in New Orleans, together with the Army Corps of Engineers: had Katrina struck but 20km to the side, the levy would have held. Katrina’s radius of max winds was also larger.

“So far it seems the main messages are that there were excellent forecasts, excellent communication, a very solid and professional response, and virtually zero exposure due to the track of the storm. Good practice and sheer luck seems to have thankfully resulted in no lives lost so far, as far as we know.”


Dr Ilan Kelman, Reader in Risk, Resilience and Global Health at University College London, said:

“The threat of flooding and landslides still continues and could do so for many days. People often believe that they are safe once the storm has moved on, but drownings can happen days afterwards as waterways remain swollen and land has been destabilised, plus it can still be raining.

“Mexico has significant experience in responding to disasters which will assist in keeping people safe after this hurricane. The evacuations from the coast appear to have saved many lives. But many of the affected places are remote without robust infrastructure. It is as yet unclear if hard-to-reach locations received suitable warnings and we do not know the full extent of the damage they are dealing with”.


Dr Ray Bell, tropical storm expert, University of Reading, said:

“The damage may have been less than feared as the hurricane stayed to the west of the populous city of Manzanillo. With Patrica, the most intense winds were compact around the eye which was around 15 km in size.

“It’s likely that when the outer bands of the hurricane moved onshore they were influenced by relatively drier air over the Mexican land. This would have cut off the moisture supply which was fuelling Patrica. The influence of mountains in Mexico increased surface friction and ‘slowed down’ the category 5 winds as it moved inland.”


Declared interests

Dr Ilan Kelman: “No interests to declare.”

Dr Ray Bell is a KTP associate and an employee of the University of Reading. Ray’s funding is provided by Innovate UK and BP.

None others received.

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