Hurricane Patricia strongest on record for region
UNDATED- The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization says Hurricane Patricia is packing comparable force to that of Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 dead or missing in the Philippines two years ago.
WMO spokeswoman Claire Nullis says Patricia is evolving quickly and already "the strongest-ever hurricane to hit the eastern north Pacific region."
She says the hurricane is currently south-southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, and on track to make landfall as a Category 5 hurricane later in the day.
Nullis says Patricia's winds - which are around 200 mph (325 kph) - are strong enough "to get a plane in the air and keep it flying."
Roberto Ramirez, the director of Mexico's National Water Commission, says Patricia is powerful enough to lift up automobiles, destroy homes that are not sturdily built with cement and steel and will be able to drag along people caught outside when the storm strikes.
WMO says Patricia's minimum central pressure is comparable to that of Haiyan, which leveled entire towns in the central Philippines in 2013.
However, Mexican authorities said only a few people have been seen going to shelters in Puerto Vallarta, where 14 schools and other buildings have been set up to house evacuees. Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio told Mexico's Radio Formula Friday morning that officials are especially worried about the safety of people in the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta, in Jalisco state, and in the nearby community of Bahia de Banderas, in Nayarit state.
Osorio said the government has deployed soldiers and federal police agents to help out, but has provided no numbers.
About 90 people hunkered down Friday in a Red Cross shelter in Puerto Vallarta as rain began to pound the area. They included senior citizens in wheelchairs and young children snuggled between parents on mattresses on the floor.
Wendi Mozingo and six family members arrived in the region from Austin, Texas, on Wednesday and had rented a beachfront house. The family left a couple of hours earlier after the property management told them they had to get out. They brought a few changes of clothes and left everything else behind.
They were supposed to depart on Tuesday. Now Mozingo says, "We're leaving as soon as we can."
For more history and analysis from WBRZ's own Robert Gauthreaux III, check out his story by clicking here.