His footage of the storm making landfall, complemented by his compelling first person narrative, is absolutely riveting.
It begins as Morgerman and his crew pursue the fickle storm.
“[This is an] unbelievably tough chase. Not only is this storm incredibly dangerous, the strongest ever on this side of the Earth and maybe the strongest hurricane ever on Earth, it’s also very hard storm to chase,” Morgerman says. “[It has] a very small core, very, very wobbly. Trying to catch this thing, I’ve never had such a big challenge.”
But Morgerman lands in the perfect spot, the small oceanfront town of Emiliano Zapata, where the storm’s center roared ashore. Morgerman and his crew set up shop in the interior, windowless room of a small hotel, putting as many walls between themselves and the elements as possible.
Morgerman’s video documents the storm’s winds crescendoing in the hours prior to landfall. He periodically leaves the safe haven of his room and pans the scene from the hotel’s upper floors.
A few minutes into the video, destructive wind gusts begin snapping trees, while lofting debris into the air.
Around the video’s six minute mark or 6:10 p.m. local time, Morgerman films a quasi-calm when some sun emerges along with patches of blue sky, coinciding with the passage of Patricia’s eye.
But just minutes later the storm’s winds increase violently and, between about 6:30 and 6:45 p.m. local time (or 7 to 11 minutes into the video), the worst of the storm and its extremely destructive backside eyewall slam the hotel.
“The hotel is starting to blow apart here,” says Morgerman (around the video’s 7:55 mark), as winds roar, visibility drops to zero, and projectiles hurl through the air.
Morgerman and several other hotel guests then hunker down inside his room 8 to 11 minutes into the video, as the structure crumbles around him. He described these harrowing moments on his Facebook page:
At 6:34 p.m. the wind shifted sharply and a wall of wind and rain swept in, engulfing the hotel with a howling, whistling sound. There was a complete whiteout. The building trembled. Things were crashing– big crashes as the hotel started to blow apart. Erik [a storm chaser with Morgerman] and I retreated to our room. A frightened hotel worker joined us and we stood in the dark, not sure what to do. We heard a terrific explosion and assumed the roof had blown off. (We were right.) Minutes later a man burst into the room– a family across the hall was in trouble– their room had torn open– roof, ceiling, and all had blown away. Erik rushed across the hall– which was now a wind tunnel– and helped them into our room. Then all of us– six adults and two children– crammed into the tiny bathroom: the family around the toilet, Erik and me in the shower stall, two hotel workers next to the sink, all of us pressed against each other in the darkness like trapped animals. Roaring. Crashing. The mother wept– she was freaked out. I told her not to worry– told her (in broken Spanish) we were totally safe– but I was talking nonsense, telling a lie. More crashing. We put pillows and blankets over the children, and Erik and I put computer bags over our heads and got low. Water was streaming from the ceiling and we expected it to blow away any second. So Erik and the two workers and I pulled the mattress off the bed and squeezed it into the bathroom. We tore the shower doors out to make room, then lifted the mattress up over everyone and wedged it in to make an extra ceiling. And we waited.
The remaining several minutes of the video show the storm winding down and the destruction left behind.
“The hotel is badly damaged,” Morgerman says. “The structure is still up though, but there’s a lot of damage all over. This place really got smashed up.”
The morning after the storm, Morgerman continues describing the post-storm scene: “We were lucky. This is the room of the family of four that joined us during the storm. The roof and ceiling totally blew away, the ceiling fan came smashing down on the bed. Thanks God no one was hurt. And the damage gets even worse as you go along the building.”
He then walks through the town of Emiliano Zapata and surveys the damage: “Destruction everywhere, big heavy poles across the street, a lot of roofs ripped off. Wreckage just scattered everywhere. Can’t find a building that hasn’t been touched by this hurricane.”
He continues: “On the highway, outside the town of Emilian Zapata, again more of the same stuff. Defoliated trees and unroofed buildings, and snapped off palm trees. . . . The wintry quality of the landscape is very strange. Everywhere we look we’re seeing completely defoliated trees, and unroofed houses and buildings.”
For those interested, Morgerman also completed a technical report describing his storm intercept, documenting an astonishing drop and rise in pressure as the storm approached and passed his location.
“The pressure gradient in the hurricane’s inner core was incredible,” the report says. “[D]espite pre-landfall filling, the cyclone’s pressure profile was still jaw-dropping.”
More Capital Weather Gang coverage of storm chasing by Josh Morgerman and iCyclone: