Historic Hurricane

Oct. 23, 2015: Hurricane Patricia in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico made history today, as being the strongest hurricane on record.  At their highest point, wind speeds were at 200 mph, gusting to 240 mph! The central pressure was an amazingly low 879 millibars, or 25.96 inches of mercury.  The most astounding part of this storm, is that it blew up from next to nothing Tuesday morning to the strongest hurricane on record 3 days later.

The hurricane blew up so quickly because of nearly ideal conditions in the Pacific. The water temperature was at a record 87° F, and that water temperature extended deep below the surface. We can thank a strong El Niño for helping out with that.  Also, wind shear was non-existent, allowing the storm to build explosively without anything threatening to tear it apart.  The storm blew up so quickly, in fact, that the winds speeds intensified by 100 mph within 24 hours between Thursday and today. This is one of the fastest intensifications caught on satellite!

hurricane 1

Hurricane Patricia as it made landfall, Oct. 23, 2015. Click on the image to enlarge.

The storm made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, with winds weakening to 160 mph once away from the very warm waters and over land. This will still be a catastrophic event for those in coastal Mexico.  Besides the wind, the number 1 killer in hurricanes is flooding, from rain and the storm surge. The storm will weaken over Saturday to tropical storm strength winds over 74 mph, with flooding rain coming with it. The remnants of the storm should hold together enough to bring flooding rain to Texas as well.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

For comparison, the 200 mph winds at the storm’s peak were at the same strength of the EF-4 Fairdale tornado!  The scary thing about this hurricane is that those 200 mph winds are spread over 15 miles, rather than 0.4 miles with the Fairdale tornado. The tornado’s winds may only last a few minutes; the hurricane winds can last upwards of an hour.  Winds that strong can strip the bark off of a tree, if the tree is still standing.

A few other quick facts about Patricia, courtesy of Phil Klotzbach, Colorado State University:

 

  • Patricia is the 22nd Category 4-5 hurricane in the Northern Hemisphere this season, beating the old record of 18 established in 1997 and 2004.
  • Patricia is the 15th hurricane of the Northeast Pacific season. Only 1992 had more hurricanes (16) through October 22.
  • Patricia is the 24th tropical cyclone to form in the Northeast Pacific this season. Only 1992 had more (26) through October 21
  • Patricia is the 9th category 4 or 5 storm in the Northeast Pacific, exceeding the old record of 8 set in 1997, when another strong El Niño was in place.

Of course, our thoughts and prayer go out to those in Mexico this weekend as they try to ride out the storm.

– Alex

 

 

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Posted under weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on October 23, 2015

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