October 24, 2015
HISTORIC STORM SET TO DEVASTATE COAST MEXICO
In the last 12 hours, Hurricane Patricia has intensified to become the strongest hurricane ever recorded in history in either the Atlantic Basin, or the Eastern Pacific (being the Pacific Ocean on our side of the International Date Line.)
4:00 PM UPDATE. With constant winds of 200 mph (360 kmh), Patricia has just become not only the largest, but also the fastest growing storm ever recorded on the entire planet. The storm changed course and landfall just happened 30km north of Manzanillo and 80km north of Tecoman, the banana growing region and home to Coliman and Organics Unlimited, with winds of 180kmh.
Stunning, Historic, Mind-Blogging, and Catastrophic – these are the words being used by forecasters around the world.
Winds are gusting at nearly 400 kmh (over 250mph). This is the combined impact of El Nino, but more-so, ocean temperatures 4C degrees above normal – a direct impact of global warming. The hurricane is currently aimed south of Puerto Vallarta and Nayarit and will be catastrophic. It will also impact Arizona, Nevada and Texas next week with rainfall of up to 2 feet expected in Texas, and double that in Mexico. 10 million people in Texas alone are under flash flood warnings and alerts. Another storm event not related to Patricia has already dumped copious rain on Texas with up to a 450cm (12-16”) expected to fall by Monday, even before Patricia’s remnants pull copious amounts of moisture inland to that region mid-week.
Normally, hurricanes have a small “wind field” of 150km on either side of the central core. However, because of the massive size, that area of hurricane strength winds is now going to cover over 1000km. of Mexico’s West Coast.
Impacts? Two feet of rain or more falling in 36 hours will create swollen rivers, road wash-outs, mudslides and catastrophic flooding – and as much as Mexican authorities have been pro-active, there was no indication that this storm would intensify from a mere tropical storm to the largest hurricane ever recorded in just 48 hours. Damage will be unbelievable – 245 mph winds will not leave many buildings standing along the coast. In many areas we have visited a majority of homes have palapa (palm leaf) or tin roofs. You can imagine how that’s going to look.
How will this affect growers? Because of the expected landfall point, the biggest tragedy will likely be the banana growing areas in Colima. Although storms are not unusual there, we can only hope that the damage to these plantations, as well as the hundreds and hundreds of hectares of lime plantations is not catastrophic. Bananas are the only major export crop in that area. To the north, most agricultural production is for local food supply. The area of southern Nayarit that is a major mango production area is at or below sea level. (Many roads are closed at high tide many miles inland.) That entire area could have 10 feet of water covering it from rainfall, dam over-flow and storm surges at high tide.
Farther south, one of our biggest worries is for Las Palomas grapefruit and mango growers, part of the Pragor group, who are right on the coast line, and in the hurricane warning area, although well south of the expected landfall point. But 120km an hour winds are going to shake a lot of fruit loose and potentially cause severe flooding. Farther up the hill – an hour’s drive inland is one of Mexico’s largest mango growing areas – these are all on hillsides as you climb up the Sierra’s inland. Strong winds and flash flooding will also have their impact. Just another 1 hour drive inland to the east is Uruapan, the largest avocado production area in the world. Growers there are bracing for the worst, having seen 75cm of rain yesterday, and expectations of a further 250-400cm of rain in the next 48 hours. That being said, one-day rain events during the winter thunderstorm season can often produce 100cm+ in just a few hours, so our expectation is that unless there is hail damage, the crop shouldn’t be impacted because the weather is already so extreme there, although mudslides and road washouts could affect transportation for some time.
Heavy rain has been falling for 24 hours across vast stretches of central Mexico already, and growing areas inland as far as Guadalajara will be impacted.
5:00 pm UPDATE – , hurricane wind warnings have now been posted for Guadalajara (pop. 5.8 million), and areas farther inland than in previous forecasts, with public warnings going out to expect winds gusting to 160km an hour.
Unfortunately, if you draw a line from the expected landfall point to Guadalajara, the new extended storm path, that line goes right through Zamora. Zamora is a small valley with a unique micro-climate and is the new production capital for strawberries and raspberries – all of which are grown under plastic hoop houses – none of which can withstand a gale force wind, much less hurricane force gusts. The area is fairly protected on most sides by hilly terrain, but not in the direction this storm will hit from. If Patricia stays on course, we can expect substantial infrastructure devastation there as well.
This is going to be a massive and catastrophic storm, and our hearts and thoughts are with everyone in those regions, and especially with so many people in those areas we have visited and know so well.
Expect citrus prices to rise very quickly – as if they weren’t already high! The Texas season is expected to start over the next 3 weeks, and although we don’t see much Texas citrus, the crop will be affected by this intense rain. Yesterday, Florida announced that production will be down 52% below average this year – a direct effect of un-stoppable citrus re-greening disease. The combination of the on-going California drought, Texas rain and Florida’s loss of 100,000 acres of production will put substantial pressure on pricing for the entire season.
We will keep you updated on reports from producers as they come in, and watch any channel you want on the news that will be reporting this event over the weekend for updates.
Hurricane Patricia Is Historically Unprecedented – And May Be Connected To El Niño