Hurricane Patricia blasted into Mexico tonight with sustained winds that pushed past 165 miles an hour, turning vehicles, trees and just about everything else that wasn't secured into missiles while potentially threatening the lives of nearly a half-million people.
It took less than 24 hours for what had been a typical tropical storm to reach Category 5 and become the most powerful hurricane of its kind ever on earth.
Meteorologist have compared Patricia to a continuous extreme tornado, with record-breaking winds stronger than Katrina and Andrew.
Widespread destruction was guaranteed after Patricia made landfall at 6:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m. ET) in Cuixmala, 55 miles west-northwest of the nearest big city, Manzanillo, on Mexico's southwestern coast -- an area best known for its beaches and the popular resort city Puerto Vallarta.
Nearly 15,000 tourists were reported evacuated.Mexican authorities issued a state of emergency in the regions of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco, which were expected to take the hardest hits.
Still, how many victims Patricia will inevitably claim depends upon which direction it takes.
An earlier projected path took Patricia over a mountainous region specked with tiny hamlets, sparing Manzanillo. A shift north or south here or there could send it barreling toward more densely populated areas, however.
Rainfall could reach 20 inches in some areas -- and with it flash floods and mudslides.
"We need people to understand the magnitude of the hurricane, it is a devastating hurricane, the biggest one ever registered," Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio told Mexico’s Radio Formula this morning.
Mexican Transportation Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza was later quoted in various media saying that officials have been bracing for the worst and are "not declaring victory" just yet.
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