Puerto Vallarta and a close call with Hurricane Patricia


A40-PIC-4-near-far-Hard-Rock-VallartaMany Canyon Lakers who travel to resort destinations in Mexico were concerned last weekend when Hurricane Patricia was projected to slam into the Mexican coastline. But not half as concerned as residents Jeannette Williams and Cathy Buell, who were on a two-week vacation in Puerto Vallarta.

The weather service and NASA reported Friday morning, October 23, that Hurricane Patricia, the strongest eastern north Pacific hurricane on record, was expected to make landfall on the coast of southwestern Mexico later in the day. It was classified a category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 200 mph.

On the ground, the huge resort where Jeannette and Cathy were staying had already begun battening down their waterfront and poolside properties on Thursday. Jeannette, who says she played golf Thursday under cloudy skies, came back to the hotel hungry, only to find the poolside restaurant closed.

Jeannette Williams gives a "thumbs down" to Hurricane Patricia. She and Cathy Buell were escorted to a concrete shelter, where they stayed with other tourists until conditions were safe.

Jeannette Williams gives a “thumbs down” to Hurricane Patricia. She and Cathy Buell were escorted to a concrete shelter, where they stayed with other tourists until conditions were safe.

The airport, where they were due to fly out Saturday, was closed and flights cancelled. Out at sea, several other Canyon Lake couples were on a cruise ship that avoided one of its ports of call to give wide berth to the hurricane. (Their story will be told next week.)

Jeannette says, by Friday morning, many tourists were spending large sums of money to be driven by taxi to higher ground in the city of Guadalajara. Those who stayed at the resort, like Jeannette and Cathy, were told to stay in their rooms, pack their bags, put them in the bathtub and prepare to evacuate.

A40-PIC-3-near-far-Jeannette-iguanaAt 1 p.m., they met in the lobby and were escorted to three-story concrete shelter at the resort, where they were given a lounge chair, blanket, pillow, food and water. Jeannette remembered what she’d heard from a tour bus driver that Puerto Vallarta was situated on the coast in such a way that hurricanes usually were deflected by the surrounding mountains.

That proved to be the case this time, too, as she reports there was no high wind and very little rain. By 9 p.m. the tourists were given the okay to return to their rooms.

Returning to the states was another matter. Southwest Airlines, which sends one non-stop flight per day to Puerto Vallarta, had cancelled the flight Jeannette and Cathy were scheduled to take Saturday. But the Canyon Lakers got an email Saturday morning telling them, if they could make it to the airport, Southwest would be sending two “recovery” flights to bring the Americans home.

The planes would be flying into Houston and Phoenix. The Canyon Lakers took the Phoenix flight and were greeted by Southwest personnel who arranged for them to fly on to Los Angeles.

A40-PIC-2-near-far-Jeannettee-horse“Hurricane Patricia is one hurricane we never really experienced but will never forget,” says Jeannette.

Other than that, their vacation was typical of most who travel to Mexican resorts. Their adventure began at Hard Rock Vallarta on October 10, where they met up with friends. Activities included golf, a horseback ride up a steep mountain trail to a small waterfall, snorkeling and lots of pool time.

On October 17, they moved a few miles down the road to the Grand Mayan resort, where Jeannette says they spent most of their time around the pool and on a tube floating in the lazy river.