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Strongest Hurricane Ever To Hit Mexico Tonight, Including Puerto Vallarta

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The most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere is expected to hit Mexico this evening, with the popular resort town of Puerto Vallarta right in its path.Hurricane Patricia is classified as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds reaching up to 200 miles per hour and a central pressure of 880 millibars. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina had sustained wind gusts of 175 miles per hour and a low pressure of 902 millibars. With such a low pressure reading, Patricia has been declared the most powerful tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Northeast Pacific, and the strongest storm ever under the term "hurricane" (in other parts of the world, they are known as cyclones or typhoons). As a result, a hurricane warning is in effect for Mexico's Pacific coast from San Blas to Punta San Telmo, including the cities of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.

Landfall is expected on Friday evening in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and Patricia is expected to remain a Category 5 by then. According to The Weather Channel, 8 to 12 inches of rain is expected in the states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero. Flooding is anticipated and some areas might get rain of up to 20 inches. Waves of 40 feet and "catastrophic" winds are expected to cause severe damage. "Everything in the street such as cars are going to turn into projectiles, so it's very important that people seek shelter," said Ricardo de la Cruz, Mexico's director of civilian protection.

Patricia intensified rapidly from Wednesday night to early Friday, making it one of the most rapid storm intensifications ever witnessed. While not the cause, the warmer ocean waters from the "Godzilla" El Niño probably helped it get to its current status. Julian Heming of the United Kingdom's Met Office, their national weather service, told New Scientist that there is a "strong link" between El Niño and Patricia. "That warm water from El Niño probably just pushed this slightly over the edge to be the strongest storm on record," said CNN's meteorologist Chad Myers.

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Once the storm reaches land, it'll run into Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains and weaken. By Saturday afternoon, it'll be a tropical depression over Central Mexico. However, its moisture will continue to dump rain in its path, potentially over the border and into the United States in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Those regions are already expecting heavy rain and flooding from another system this weekend.