Updated October 26, 2015
Hurricane Patricia struck the coast of Jalisco state with 165MPH winds early evening on Friday October 23, becoming the strongest hurricane to make landfall on the Pacific coast of Mexico. While rescue workers are still assessing the damage from the record-breaking hurricane, so far minimal infrastructure damage and six casualties have been reported.
Hurricane Patricia made landfall on a sparsely populated stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast, avoiding direct hits on two major cities (Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo), primarily striking mountainous areas. The minimal fatalities are a result of Patricia’s narrow footprint – Category 5 winds extended 15 miles out on either side of the eye, and hurricane-force winds extended for 35 miles from the center of the storm. Rainfall from Hurricane Patricia could still cause flooding and landslides.
Capable emergency response planning by the Mexican government helped to mitigate fatalities. Mexico withstood Hurricane Patricia by learning from past disasters and building their emergency response capacity. Hurricane Patricia grew in size and strength into a Category 5 hurricane at an exceptional rate. In 24 hours, Mexican officials were forced to dramatically expedite and increase preparation and evacuation efforts for residents and tourists in its path. Mexican authorities did a capable job of warning individuals via radio, television and social media announcements and evacuating people to shelters, where needed. Preparation efforts included:
State of emergency: was been declared for 56 municipalities in Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco – the states expected to be hardest hit by the storm
Evacuations: Nearly 50,000 individuals were evacuated further inland (many to Guadalajara) in anticipation of the hurricane’s winds and potential for floods and landslides due to massive rainfall
Shelters: 782 temporary shelters with capacity for 258,000 people were opened in Colima, Michoacan, Jalisco and Nayarit
Airport closures: Airports in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Tepic were closed
Response – Relief Organizations
While initial reports indicate that damage from Hurricane Patricia is not as bad as anticipated given the storm’s initial strong winds, at least 3,000 homes were damaged and more than 250,000 people were without power, immediately following the storm. The following recommended organizations are in-country assessing damage and supporting the people of Mexico with priority needs: water/sanitation, shelter, supplies and medical assistance.
AmeriCares is working with its in-country counterparts to distribute pre-positioned relief supplies, including soap, toothpaste and diapers to displaced families. Donate here.
Catholic Relief Services @CatholicRelief
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has extensive experience in the region and has worked with local partner, Caritas Mexico, for more than 70 years to provide disaster assistance and shelter – most recently, in 2014, after Hurricane Odile devastated Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula.  Donate here.
International Medical Corps @IMC_Worldwide
International Medical Corps’ first responders—doctors, nurses and water sanitation experts—are on the ground providing support to survivors in need. Donate here.
Power of Social Media
The power of social media to inform and connect is particularly evident during a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis. Continual social media innovations are redefining the way individuals receive information and communicate during natural disasters.
Real-time information: Following the Hurricane Patricia “Twitter Moment” allows Twitter users to receive updated, curated content in real-time from key news outlets such as the New York Times and The Washington Post
Communication: Facebook launched its Safety Check feature for Hurricane Patricia Saturday morning, allowing individuals to check on the well-being of their family and friends affected by the storm. Individuals in the area received notifications that enabled them to mark themselves as safe
Recommended Social Media Messaging
Given social media’s role as an immediate source of information, messaging is integral to raising awareness and funds to support those affected by the hurricane. A few suggested social media posts are below:
- .@IMC_Worldwide is on the ground providing relief to victims of #HurricanePatricia. Donate here.
- Support @CatholicRelief’s Hurricane Patricia relief efforts. Donate here.
.@AmeriCares is preparing their response to Hurricane #Patricia: strongest storm ever recorded. Donate here.