Mexico Extreme Weather Event

Hurricane Patricia

From a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just a matter of hours, Hurricane Patricia astonished Mexico and the world on October 23, 2015, as it became the most intense tropical cyclone in the Western Hemisphere and one of the strongest storms ever recorded globally. After reaching the west coast of Mexico, it lost its intensity and strength as it moved towards a mountainous terrain with drier air. At 7:00 am the next day, it had become a tropical storm again.

A great disaster in the making, Patricia’s impacts were far from what was expected thanks to the coming together of several factors: it was a small and fast storm with less water and a reduced area of influence; its path took it through a sparsely populated region; and finally, a surprisingly preventive approach carried out by different levels of the government, local businesses and communities, contributed to ameliorate the potential damaging effects of the storm.

Although it only had a few casualties, Patricia exerted great pressure on the rural communities that it hit. It caused landslides and uprooted trees, while affecting roads, highways, houses and service centers. One of the biggest impacts was for local farmers, as 12,500 hectares of crops were lost due to the hurricane. In total, 10,000 people were affected, and the government calculated the costs of recovery to be approximately more than a billion Mexican pesos.

After the hurricane, members of the Marines, the Red Cross and other civil defense groups worked on rescue actions within most of the affected communities. One year later, money from the Fund for Emergency Response (FONDEN) was used to build only 48 new homes out of the 3,000 that were damaged. Although the new houses followed the established norms to reduce their risk of being destroyed and cut off from service provision, the rest of the victims in the region have received inadequate and sparse materials to reconstruct their homes and have yet to see compensation for the lost agricultural produce.

As shown in the case of Hurricane Patricia, the government still approaches disaster response with a disproportionate deployment of efforts and resources towards post-disaster military assistance, rather than the implementation of risk reduction measures. This is even more noticeable in the gaps between climate change policies and civil protection laws, where there is a lack of cross-sectoral approaches that will be needed as climate change brings more frequent and intense events like Patricia.

Learn More

Hurricane Patricia hits Mexico:

How Patricia, the strongest hurricane on record, killed so few people:

On the disappointment of the victims of Patricia (in Spanish):

The interplay between climate change and disaster risk reduction policy: evidence from Mexico: