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HomeWorldCategory 4 Hurricane Lidia slams into western coast of Mexico

Category 4 Hurricane Lidia slams into western coast of Mexico

Hurricane Lidia, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 140 mph, roared ashore Tuesday night about 35 miles south-southwest of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s west coast. The major hurricane was expected to unleash flooding rains, destructive winds and a dangerous ocean surge.

It became the second storm to strike Mexico’s west coast in two days, following Max — a weaker system — which made landfall Monday between Lázaro Cárdenas and Acapulco.

Lidia intensified with remarkable haste, growing from a tropical storm with 70 mph winds on Monday evening to a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds 24 hours later.

According to hurricane expert Jeff Masters, who writes a column for Yale Climate Connections, Lidia’s landfall intensity tied as the third strongest on record along Mexico’s west coast.

Water temperatures in the area ran in the mid- to upper 80s, or a few degrees above average and more than warm enough to support a powerful hurricane. Abnormally warm waters have been a factor in the rapid intensification of numerous storms right up to landfall in recent years.

Ahead of Lidia, hurricane warnings were issued along the coast from Novillero in the north to Manzanillo in the south, as well as for Las Islas Marias just offshore of the mainland.

The resort city of Puerto Vallarta and nearby towns on Cabo Corrientes, a small cape to the southwest, were forecast to take a direct hit from the intensifying storm.

Ahead of landfall, the National Hurricane Center warned residents to rush their preparations to completion.

In anticipation of the storm, classes were canceled in communities near the coast, according to the Associated Press. The airport in Puerto Vallarta urged frequent communication with airlines if traveling to or from the popular vacation spot.

Significant coastal flooding because of storm surge — the wind-driven rise in ocean water above normally dry land — was expected near and south of where the storm came ashore. A life-threatening surge was predicted to produce waves of 5 to 10 feet, according to Mexico’s meteorological service.

Rainfall of about 4 to 8 inches was projected near the landfall zone. Higher elevations or isolated spots near the coast were forecast to receive as much as a foot of rain.

“Heavy rains from Lidia will likely produce flash and urban flooding, along with possible mudslides in areas of higher terrain across the state of Nayarit, southern portions of the state of Sinaloa, and coastal portions of the state of Jalisco in western Mexico,” the Hurricane Center wrote.

Once on land, the storm was predicted to weaken fairly rapidly and be ripped apart by a dip in the jet stream to its north, although some of its remnants were expected to be pulled northward toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Moisture from Lidia and from another disturbance in the gulf was predicted to be drawn toward the U.S. Gulf Coast states later this week, bringing much-needed rainfall to the parched region.

One-two punch during relatively active core season

Lidia comes on the heels of landfall by Tropical Storm Max several hundred miles to the south.

Max moved ashore Monday morning as a strengthening tropical storm with 65 mph sustained winds. The main impact from Max was heavy rainfall of around 5 to 10 inches. Significant flooding was observed in Acapulco and Tecpan de Galeana, and in other places in the states of Guerrero and Michoacan.

El Niño, a warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific, tends to lead to an active hurricane season in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This year has been less active than forecast, largely because of a very late start to El Niño; the first named storm did not form until late June.

Since that first storm, most days have featured ongoing storms in the region. The eight hurricanes that have developed in the eastern Pacific to date are a near-average number, with the five major hurricanes — including Category 5 Jova — being somewhat above average.

October is prime time for big storms to hit Mexico

Although El Niño seasons may produce more storms than others, the period from mid-September through October is the period when hurricanes usually hit Mexico’s west coast.

As in the cases of Lidia and Max, the reason Mexico faces more impacts from the west this time of year is that the summer subtropical high-pressure zone that often steers storms away starts to break down. This allows for incursions of dips in the jet stream from the north, helping to capture storms that mostly stay out to sea in the months prior.

The most recent October hurricane in Mexico was just last year, when Roslyn peaked at Category 4 and came ashore as a Category 3 about 100 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. A few weeks before that came Orlene, which struck south of Mazatlán.

During another strong El Niño like this year’s, Hurricane Patricia made landfall on Oct. 23, 2015, in Jalisco state. Before weakening somewhat as it approached land, the storm reached Category 5, with winds over 200 mph, and was one of the strongest ever observed on Earth.

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

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