NEW: Mexican officials say there are no reports of major damage
NEW: Patricia degenerates into a remnant area of low pressure, U.S. National Hurricane Center says
Patricia made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, the fiercest level
Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded at sea, approached Mexico’s Pacific coast with such ferocity that one official predicted it would become the most dangerous storm in history.
Thousands were evacuated from luxury beach resorts and impoverished hamlets long before the powerful Category 5 storm touched down Friday evening near Cuixmala in southwestern Mexico. Its crushing 165-mph sustained winds uprooted trees and toppled power lines. Heavy rains unleashed mudslides.
By late Saturday afternoon, however, satellite imagery and surface observations from northern Mexico indicated Patricia had degenerated into a remnant area of low pressure, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
The hurricane center’s final advisory on what had been described as a potentially catastrophic storm came hours after Patricia had been downgraded to a tropical depression, sapped by mountainous terrain, with 35-mph sustained winds.
Mexico apparently dodged a bullet. For now, there are no confirmed reports of storm-related fatalities or major damage.
“We are fortunate the hurricane … went to the mountainous areas,” Communications and Transport Minister Gerardo Ruíz Esparza told reporters.
“That lessened the impact. The wind and water hit us but our infrastructure was able to withstand that hit. The worst went to the mountains.”
Patricia plowed through a sparsely populated and mountainous stretch of the coast but avoided the resort city of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, home to the largest container port on Mexico’s Pacific seaboard.
’God helped and watched over us’
Two people died and four people were reported missing in Autlán in Jalisco state, Red Cross representative Andres Gomez told CNN. One death was the result of a heart attack, the cause of the other is unclear, according to Gomez.
It’s not known whether the fatalities are storm-related, Gomez said
Still, Mexican officials remained cautiously optimistic throughout the day, with President Enrique Peña Nieto saying in a tweet Saturday afternoon: “So far, there are no reports of major damage from Patricia.”