Incredible story of survival during Category 5 Patricia from Josh Morgerman over at iCyclone. He has chased many Hurricanes and Typhoons but this was one for the record books.
Why am I posting a picture of a dark bathroom with a mattress wedged in the ceiling? Because it protected me and seven other people.
Hurricane PATRICIA. All I can say is: terrifying storm.
After an hour or two of violent, destructive winds in Emiliano Zapata, the pressure bottomed out at 937.8 mb at 6:12 pm. We saw brightness in the sky and some touches of blue, and while the wind was still dangerous, it seemed to be a little less energetic for a few minutes. (I notice that the NHC's landfall point was *very* close to us! So it looks like we might have been skirting the edge of the eye at this time.) Then the pressure started to rapidly rise, and I assumed the worst of the hurricane had passed. Actually, it hadn't started. (Ugh.)
At 6:34 pm the wind shifted sharply and a wall of wind and rain swept in, engulfing the hotel with a howling, whistling sound. There was a complete whiteout. The building trembled. Things were crashing-- big crashes as the hotel started to blow apart. Erik and I retreated to our room. A frightened hotel worker joined us and we stood in the dark, not sure what to do. We heard a terrific explosion and assumed the roof had blown off. (We were right.) Minutes later a man burst into the room-- a family across the hall was in trouble-- their room had torn open-- roof, ceiling, and all had blown away. Erik rushed across the hall-- which was now a wind tunnel-- and helped them into our room. Then all of us-- six adults and two children-- crammed into the tiny bathroom: the family around the toilet, Erik and me in the shower stall, two hotel workers next to the sink, all of us pressed against each other in the darkness like trapped animals. Roaring. Crashing. The mother wept-- she was freaked out. I told her not to worry-- told her (in broken Spanish) we were totally safe-- but I was talking nonsense, telling a lie. More crashing. We put pillows and blankets over the children, and Erik and I put computer bags over our heads and got low. Water was streaming from the ceiling and we expected it to blow away any second. So Erik and the two workers and I pulled the mattress off the bed and squeezed it into the bathroom. We tore the shower doors out to make room, then lifted the mattress up over everyone and wedged it in to make an extra ceiling. And we waited.
The howling continued, but the pressure was rising fast-- into the 960s, then '70s-- and I knew we'd clear the core soon... just a few more minutes of this insanity. And by maybe 7 pm or so, we did. We crept out to look at the devastation-- smashed rooms, mountains of debris, trees stripped bare. And as it got dark the wind slowly calmed... And we had a tranquil night sleeping on a damp mattress, the crickets chirping all hours in the black, sticky calm.
On a meteorological note: The pressure gradient in the core of this cyclone was frightening. The pressure recovered explosively-- 31 mb in 26 minutes (6:24 - 6:50 pm) (!!) and an incredible 15 mb in just 9 minutes (6:34 - 6:43 pm) while the winds ripped apart the hotel. It was an incredible, frightening experience (and honor) to punch the core of this Cat-5 hurricane-- the strongest known landfall ever in the Eastern Pacific. My video footage is messy, shaky, and wild, but I believe it captures the terror of the experience and I hope to post it soon.
I need to give a HUGE thanks to the team that made this chase awesome: my right-hand man in Texas, Scott Brownfield; James Hyde; and Jorge Abelardo Gonzalez. They all helped us interpret PATRICIA's complex motion in those frantic final hours as we tried to pinpoint the landfall. And I also want to thank Erik Sereno, who's been an awesome chase partner. Thanks also to Eric Blake, of the National Hurricane Center, for his valuable insights on off hours. And finally, I want to thank all the members of this page who give so much encouragement-- it helps during really tough chases like PATRICIA.
Erik and I spent much of the morning helping clean up the wreckage at our hotel, and now we're almost to Manzanillo. We're gonna sleep well tonight.