Flights to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, from Seattle and other West Coast cities were canceled Friday and Saturday as Hurricane Patricia slammed into Mexico’s central Pacific coast.
Alaska Airlines said it had canceled all of its flights to and from Puerto Vallarta and Manzanilla ahead of the hurricane, the strongest ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. Alaska has one flight daily from Seattle to Puerto Vallarta and one back.
American Airlines, United, Delta and Southwest also canceled flights, as did Canadian and Mexican carriers, according to data from FlightAware.com.
Alaska spokesperson Halley Knigge told KUOW that the airline hoped that if the airports were operational, empty jets could be sent to bring passengers home. Knigge said one empty flight went to Puerto Vallarta early Friday before the storm hit and came back to the U.S. full.
She said passengers who booked for Puerto Vallarta between Oct. 22 and Oct. 26 can get a refund or reschedule.
Alaska has about 50 employees in the storm region and has offered to put them up in hotels if they are evacuated, she said.
Patricia's eye made landfall Friday evening south of Puerto Vallarta with winds of about 165 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. That was down from a peak of 200 mph -- the highest wind speed ever recorded for a Western Hemisphere hurricane.
But the hurricane center said that a NOAA weather station in Chamela-Cuixmala, Mexico, recorded sustained winds of 185 mph with a gust to 211 mph. The center said those numbers were unofficial.
Early Saturday, Patricia was well inland and heading north toward Texas, which was bracing for heavy rain.
NPR reports on how Patricia's strength compares to Super Typhoon Haiyan:
Some have compared this to Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in 2013. There are some important distinctions between those two storms. Haiyan's winds (either 174 mph or 196 mph, depending on which estimate is used) were estimated using satellite observations. Patricia's winds are confirmed by U.S. Hurricane Hunter aircraft that flew into the storm and measured the actual winds and atmospheric pressure.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) October 23, 2015