Streets of touristy Puerto Vallarta were deserted and hotels evacuated guests Friday afternoon as Mexico prepared for the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the Pacific region.
Emergency messages blared through megaphones across areas in Hurricane Patricia’s path, as Mexican officials ramped up warnings as a light rain begun and the storm drew closer.
"The hurricane is so strong that it could cross the country's two Sierra Madre mountain ranges, the two most mountainous regions, and come out the other side of the country along the Gulf of Mexico and head to the United States," said Roberto Ramirez, the head of federal water agency Conagua.
Hurricane Patricia strengthened to a Category 5 storm Friday, expanding at an “incredible rate” in the last hours, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
"Hurricane Patricia is extremely violent because of the strength of the winds. It's important that people take cover."
The likely trajectory of the hurricane, according to Mexico's National Meteorological Center.
"Patricia is now the strongest ever hurricane to hit the eastern north Pacific region," WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told a U.N. briefing in Geneva, citing an update from the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Specialists are warning that the storm could have similar effects to Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people, destroying around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province in the Philippines in 2013.
Emergency procedures are underway in Mexico as the hurricane reached maximum sustained winds of around 295 kilometers per hour.
"The winds are enough to get a plane in the air and keep it flying," Nullis said.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called an emergency cabinet meeting early Friday to establish preventative measures in the states which will be hit first and hardest by the monster storm.
“It will be the hurricane with the greatest force to have impacted the Pacific in the last 50 years,” the president told his ministers, asking them to remain alert over the development of the hurricane.
Peña Nieto, who heard a detailed report from the head of the National Water Commission about the serious projected effects, called on people in Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit to stay well informed over developments and official instructions.
Puerto Vallarta residents begun boarding up windows against the storms, while flights are suffering delays.
Preparations for emergency shelters have begun as people in the states of Colima, Jalisco and Michoacan brace for torrential rains.