Hurricane Patricia, one of the most powerful storms on record, struck Mexico's Pacific coast on Friday, threatening to inflict catastrophic damage as emergency teams scrambled to evacuate thousands of people from homes and popular beach resorts.
The most dangerous storm in history hits Mexico
Patricia made landfall at Playa Perula in the state of Jalisco, Mexico's meteorological service said.
Blowing winds of almost 165 miles per hour (266 km/h), the Category 5 hurricane had western Mexico on high alert, including Puerto Vallarta and smaller resorts along the coast.
"The truth is, I'm very, very nervous ... This is going to get very ugly and I'm sad I'm not with my family," said local hotel worker Fernando as he and other staff hunkered down in a room at the Hotel Estancia Dolphins in Punta Perula, locking the door and bracing for the storm's arrival in near darkness.
Pamela Garcia, a spokeswoman for Mexico's meteorological service, said Patricia hit near Punta Perula between Puerto Vallarta and the major cargo port of Manzanillo.
U.S. weather experts said Patricia was the strongest storm yet registered in the Western Hemisphere, and the World Meteorogical Organization (WMO) compared it to Typhoon Haiyan, which killed thousands in the Philippines in 2013.
Mexico's National Commission for Water, CONAGUA, said the eye of the hurricane has a diameter of 10 kilometers, or 6.21 miles and also that the excessive wind speeds recorded make Patricia "the most dangerous storm in history."
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said it was hard to predict what damage would be done by the massive storm, which could be seen barreling into Mexico from outer space.
"But one thing we're certain of is that we're facing a hurricane of a scale we've never ever seen," he said in a radio interview.
Mexican and U.S. officials said the unprecedented hurricane could wreak catastrophic damage.
Roberto Ramirez, head of Mexico's federal water agency, said Patricia was so strong it could possibly cross the country and head over the Gulf of Mexico to the United States.
Writing from 249 miles (401 km) above Earth on the International Space Station, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted an imposing image of the giant storm, blanketing a significant portion of the globe in white cloud, along with the message: "Stay safe below, Mexico."
"If you are in the hurricane warning area, make preparations immediately to protect life and property," the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
Still, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the storm should weaken once it hits western Mexico's mountainous terrain.
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