An exceedingly perilous hurricane called ‘Lidia’ has made landfall on the Pacific coast of Mexico, registering as a Category 4 storm with wind speeds reaching up to 140 mph (220 km/h).
Local tourist destinations took precautions to shield themselves from heavy rainfall, potentially life-threatening winds, and flooding.
According to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), Lidia reached an “extremely dangerous” intensity, with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) in the state of Jalisco. The affected area is a sparsely populated peninsula. The hurricane is currently tracking south of Puerto Vallarta, which may help mitigate the impact on the resort.
The NHC, headquartered in Miami, reported that Lidia was moving east-northeast at a rate of 16 mph (26 kph) and was rapidly losing strength as it moved further inland. In response, the Puerto Vallarta International Airport issued a statement announcing its closure until 8 am on Wednesday.
Lidia hurricane landfall marks a seasonal first for Mexico
Lidia’s landfall in Mexico not only marked the first major hurricane of the season but also remained the sole hurricane to affect the country in the current year.
Throughout the day, Lidia displayed a noteworthy increase in intensity, evolving from its 9 a.m. CT status when it featured maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, initially classifying it as a Category 2 hurricane. In the hurricane categorisation system, a Category 2 hurricane denotes maximum sustained winds exceeding 96 mph but not surpassing 110 mph, and it transitions to Category 3 when wind speeds range from 111 mph to 129 mph. Any hurricane classified as a Category 3 storm or higher, within the system that extends up to Category 5, is considered a major hurricane.
The last significant storm to hit Mexico was Roslyn on Oct. 23, 2022, north of Puerto Vallarta. Prior to then, the most recent Category 3 storms were Hurricane Grace in 2021 and Hurricane Willa in 2018.
In 2015, storm Patricia, a Category 5 storm, made landfall on the same sparsely populated stretch of coastline between the resort of Puerto Vallarta and the large port of Manzanillo.
Anticipated to swiftly diminish over the mountainous terrain and ultimately dissipate, Lidia nevertheless retained the capacity to drench the area with substantial rainfall. Weather experts projected that Lidia might maintain Category 1 hurricane status when it passed near Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, around midnight.
In response to the impending conditions, local authorities in coastal communities decided to cancel classes. This forecasted impact follows closely on the heels of Tropical Storm Max, which struck the southern Pacific coast a few hundred miles away before losing its strength. The heavy rainfall from Max caused damage to a coastal highway in the southern state of Guerrero.
Official response to the hurricane-
Governor Enrique Alfaro communicated via social media that while some areas were already experiencing flooding, there had been no reported casualties or injuries.
Martha Ramírez, a 60-year-old journalist in Puerto Vallarta, shared her astonishment at the intensity of the hurricane, stating, “I had never witnessed or felt a hurricane like this.” She sought refuge in the city hall, where power outages and intermittent internet connections added to the challenges.
The impact of Lidia has disrupted tourism in Pacific coastline resorts. Businesses in Puerto Vallarta were forced to shut down, beachgoers retreated to their hotels, the airport ceased operations, and local hospitals prepared for a potential surge in patients. Residents residing near rivers or in mountainous regions received advisories to seek shelter in government-run facilities, as conveyed by Susana Rodríguez Mejía, a spokeswoman for Jalisco’s state government.