Hurricane Patricia could be the worst hurricane to hit Mexico, and its storm surge is expected to be massive.
Hal Needham, a hurricane storm surge scientist at Louisiana State University, wrote a blog on WXshift predicting that the surge could be higher than 16.5 feet.
That’s about the height of a typical two-story house.
“I expect that Patricia’s surge heights will likely exceed 16.5 feet, and will be accompanied by large, destructive waves,” Needham wrote. “This would be the largest storm surge in the modern history of western Mexico.”
Storm surge is the flooding of water produced by hurricanes, predominantly caused by the strong winds blowing onshore. Hurricane Patricia’s winds topped out at over 200 miles per hour (they’re currently at 190 miles per hour). These strong winds push walls of water ashore in front of the storm.
Hurricane Sandy had perhaps the worst storm surge in recent memory, and its peak was over 8 feet in parts of the Jersey Shore and 6.5 feet around New York City. But Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge actually reached 28 feet in Louisiana, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Storm surge is a rise in the sea level on top of normal tides and waves. Here’s a diagram of how it works when this wall of water comes ashore. Here, a 15 foot surge results in a 17 foot storm tide, with waves atop that:
Patricia will likely still be a Category 5 storm (the worst one there is) when it makes landfall in the Mexican state of Jalisco Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
The NWS agreed that the storm surge would be significant from this “potentially catastrophic” storm.
“An extremely dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding near and to the right of where the center makes landfall,” the National Weather Service’s most recent update read. “Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.”
Category 5 storms can completely destroy most framed homes, and unquestionably cause power outages that can last weeks to months. Most of the area if often uninhabitable for that amount of time, too.
Patricia is expected to hit from cities San Blas to Punta San Telmo, and the area is currently under a hurricane warning. East of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenasm is under a hurricane watch, and a tropical storm warning is in effect for east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas and north of San Blas to El Roblito. Cities Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara are also in the path of the storm.
NOW WATCH: The strongest hurricane on record, with 200 mph winds, could be ‘unimaginably catastrophic’ for Mexico
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