Powerful Patricia weakens to tropical depression

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Hurricane Patricia, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, crashed into western Mexico with rain and winds of up to 165 mph (266 kph), hammering coastal areas but causing less damage than had been feared as it skirted cities and major tourist resorts.

Mowing down trees, flooding streets and battering buildings, Patricia plowed into Mexico as a Category 5 hurricane on Friday evening before grinding inland. It rapidly lost power in the mountains that rise up along the Pacific coast and was downgraded to a tropical depression on Saturday morning as it headed through central Mexico.

Thousands of residents and tourists along the coast had fled the storm’s advance and ended up in improvised shelters. But there were no early reports of deaths and many felt they had escaped lightly. It appeared major damage was averted because the powerful storm did not hit large population centers.

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Patricia made landfall in the port of Manzanillo. (Photo: AFP)

Patricia’s edges brushed the major port of Manzanillo. Port director Jorge Bustos said the facility was still closed, but he expected it to be open again by Saturday afternoon.

“We didn’t have any major damage,” he said. “Sure, gates, doors, some windows, volatile or light roofs, that sort of thing, but nothing that was a risk to our operations.”

Further north, around 15,000 tourists had been hastily evacuated from the busy beach resort of Puerto Vallarta. But many were able to leave shelters and return to their hotels on Friday night.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a big problem with the water,” said Dario Pomina, 43, manager of the Posadas de Roger hotel in the center of Puerto Vallarta. “Things are more or less okay.”

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Protective boarding being taken down. (Photo AP)

The city woke to light rain on Saturday and workers removed boards from windows. Public buses were up and running.

But residents of Las Juntas, a village where the Ameca and Mascota rivers meet about 6 miles (10 km) from Puerto Vallarta, were being evacuated on Saturday after a rapid rise in water levels overnight caused flooding, emergency services spokeswoman Veronica Diaz said.

Patricia’s center hit land on Friday evening near the area of Cuixmala, located between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta and home to one of Mexico’s most exclusive getaways, the U.S National Hurricane Center said.

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