Hurricane Jova, a powerful category 3 hurricane 24 hours ago, has weakened to category 2 intensity in the hours prior to landfall. Still, the storm threatens to deliver a big blow to the southwest coast of Mexico.
Positioned 110 miles from Manzanillo at 2 p.m. ET, the storm has maximum sustained winds of 100 mph and is moving east northeast at 5 mph. Hurricane warnings remain in effect from Punta San Telmo to Cabo Corrientes where Jova will likely move ashore tonight. Landfall is most likely to occur somewhere just north of Manzanillo and south of the resort town Puerto Vallarta.
Rain bands are already starting to move inland along Mexico’s southwest coast. The National Hurricane Center predicts 6-12” of rain from Jova over the states of Michoacan, Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit with isolated amounts to 20”. The heaviest rains are likely to occur in the mountainous and hilly terrain inland from the coast. Dangerous flash flooding and mudslides may pose the biggest risk to life and property from this storm.
Destructive winds are most likely right along the coast and close to the storm’s center. Hurricane force winds only extend 15 miles from the storm’s center, limiting the region affected.
A major concern from Jova is storm surge, especially just south of where it comes ashore. Meteorologist Rob White, who writes the Original Weather Blog, provides some nice detail about the areas most vulnerable to the surge:
The water pile up and storm surge will be the most severe along the coast from near Estrcho and Barra de Navidad on Northwestward along the coast toward the point where the center is forecast to come ashore. In particular, the bays near Melaque and La Manzanillo can expect high water levels and adjacent coastal flooding later today.
AccuWeather, calling Jova “a disaster in the making”, describes a worst case scenario for Manzanillo:
If the center of Hurricane Jova rolls in just north of Manzanillo, powerful west to southwesterly winds will cause cause huge waves and ocean water to be funneled into and pile-up in harbor areas.
AccuWeather notes Manzanillo is Mexico’s largest port with a population of 130,000.
Additional weakening prior to landfall could reduce the severity of all of these impacts. But a direct hit from a strong category 2 storm is not something this part of Mexico is accustomed to writes AccuWeather meteorologist Jesse Ferrell:
...only two hurricanes have made perpendicular landfall (which would deliver the maximum storm surge and winds) within 65 miles of the state of Colima throughout history: Category 1 Hurricane Winfred in 1992 and a hurricane of unknown intensity (but which was a Cat 5 off the coast) that slammed into the area in 1959. Called the “sneak hurricane,” it killed over 1,000 people.
Related: Puerto Vallarta webcam