A couple walks along the waterfront under a steady rain, as rainfall increased with the approach of Hurricane Patricia in Puerto Vallarta. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
On Friday night, Hurricane Patricia slammed the Pacific coastline of Mexico, touching down just 55 miles northwest of Manzanillo and striking high-end resorts and coastal villages with winds measuring 165 mph.
From preliminary reports, it looks like the “potentially catastrophic” Patricia was not the apocalyptic event some had forecast, fortunately hitting land in less populated areas and later getting downgraded into a “remnant low,” or tropical depression. The storm system is dumping rain, causing flooding and a small amount of damage — but a major catastrophe seems to have been averted.
Gustavo Rivas-Solis, spokesman for Puerto Vallarta Tourism, told Yahoo Travel, “We were lucky, but we were prepared. We had practiced evacuation drills before and moved 4,000 tourists to shelter in one day.”
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Hotel rooms where local residents sought shelter during the passage of Hurricane Patricia only to have the roof torn off from over their heads, are seen from above at the El Refugio hotel in Emiliano Zapata, Mexico, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
There were no fatalities, major damage, or even injuries reported as of Saturday night, according to Roberto Lopez Lara, interior secretary for the state of Jalisco. This is incredible, considering this was the strongest storm ever recorded. This is likely due to the sparse population in the affected areas and the efficiency of the local authorities at evacuating people from the coastal region. It is believed that over 50,000 people were successfully evacuated from the area in just 24 hours. Airports in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Tepic, and Colima have all reopened along with the port in Puerto Vallarta, where no major damage was reported.
Yet, in spite of the downgrade, this storm is still incredibly dangerous and continues to pose an issue to the region. Parts of Mexico, and now Texas have received or will receive 12 to 20 inches of rain over the next couple of days. Flash-flooding, mud-slides, and landslides are still a real and present threat, especially in the worst affected areas along the coastline.
People enjoy a seafront walkway the morning after Hurricane Patricia passed further south, sparing Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
For travelers planning to head to the area in the next few weeks there are several things to be aware of.
The U.S. State Department posted a travel advisory on Saturday advising U.S. citizens to maintain their vigilance and suggested that “due to the continued threat of landslides, and they should verify travel plans prior to travel, as some hotels remain closed and some flights may have been canceled.”
While the main storm has passed, the weather along the southwestern Mexico coastline is set to remain turbulent for at least the next week with heavy rain and thunderstorms.
Downed power lines will mean certain buildings, or even whole neighborhoods, might be without power for an unknown length of time.
Flooding and heavy rains can also cause huge issues with the local water supply — largely involving the degradation of the water quality — making it unsafe for consumption.
Damage or blockages to local roads could also cause delays in bringing food and water to the more populated areas.
In order to establish whether your vacation destination is fully operational following the hurricane, whether it be a hotel, vacation rental or private residence, you are advised to contact the management, operator, or owner ahead of time to confirm the current situation.
But what is the best thing to do if you are already on your vacation?
You can always attempt to ride out the storm by finding somewhere safe and local to bunker up. Liza Gershman, who was on vacation in Puerto Vallarta just before the storm hit, told Yahoo Travel that her friends who remained did just that: “They barricaded themselves in the interior bathroom of their VRBO and put a mattress against the wall. Drank tequila and waited.”
Sure enough, only hours after the downgraded storm hit shore, the sun came out again. Indeed, Puerto Vallarta has officially called out the “all clear” signal, with blue skies, no winds, and guests all being returned to their hotels from shelters.
Puerto Vallarta in the calm after the storm. (Photo: Puerto Vallarta Tourism)
From the nearby Riviera Nayarit tourist zone, public relations manager Richard Zarkin told Yahoo Travel that “all is in order…hotels and restaurants are working as usual.” Betty Vazquez, chef and co-owner at the Garza Canela hotel in San Blas told Yahoo Travel that while everyone was worried before the storm hit, it was a quick turnaround to normalcy: her place was open for business within 24 hours of the storm’s landfall. What is Blas doing to recover from the storm? “I’m going swimming,” she said.
Another tip: contact your airline as soon as possible, as there will likely be thousands of people trying to change their flights and get on new ones. Most major airlines will work with passengers in the wake of a natural disaster to get them home as safe as possible. If the airline does not offer to waive fees, you can usually negotiate with them in a situation like this.
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For Yahoo Travel readers who are looking for a way to help with the ongoing relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Patricia, there are several charitable organizations — among them Americares, Catholic Relief Services, Direct Relief, Mexican Red Cross, OXFAM, Salvation Army, and Save the Children — which have already deployed teams to assist in the aftermath of the storm.