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Patricia– packing 200 mile per hour winds and the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western hemisphere– is bearing down on Mexico’s Pacific coast causing some residents and tourists to flee and U.S. forecasters to issue major storm warnings for West Texas.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that the Category 5 storm’s maximum sustained winds had grown to 200 miles per hour (mph), making it the strongest storm on record in the eastern Pacific and Atlantic. Patricia is expected to remain an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 through landfall Friday afternoon into evening. Afterward, Patricia is expected to rapidly weaken over the mountains of Mexico.

“This is an extremely dangerous, potentially catastrophic hurricane,” center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said.

Feltgen said Patricia also poses problems for Texas, which is bracing for a rare “back door storm” hitting the western part of the state first, unlike most Gulf hurricanes striking Texas from the southeast. Forecast models indicate that after the storm breaks up over land, remnants of its tropical moisture will likely combine with and contribute to heavy rainfall that is already soaking Texas independently of the hurricane, he said.

(Photo courtesy TX Storm Chasers)

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