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Hurricane Patricia's Unexpected Aftermath


Across Mexico, residents are cleaning up from a storm that originally began as Hurricane Patricia. It's dissolved into a low-pressure area, bringing rain down on inland Mexico and parts of Texas. Residents now cleaning up from the storm are grateful that they were spared the worst. NPR's Nathan Rott reports.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The Rodriguez family is washing matted mud and debris off the tile floor of their family restaurant, where on most days, the house special is roasted tongue and red sauce with baked ribs. On this day, though, they're just trying to get the water and mud out. The river behind their house and restaurant overflowed its banks and flooded the floors.

ANA RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

ROTT: "Trees fell and the roof was damaged," says Ana Rodriguez. "Hurricane Patricia was bad, but not as bad as people warned."

RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

ROTT: "They told us it was going to be Category 5," she says, "catastrophic." Well, it wasn't - catastrophic anyway - not here at least. Rodriguez's restaurant sits near the border of the Mexico states of Jalisco and Colima, within view of the sea and not far south from where Hurricane Patricia made landfall Friday evening. Patricia was a Category 5 hurricane when it crashed into the coast, with sustained winds of 165 miles per hour. The rains, though, were not as severe on the coast as people had feared. Inland was a different story. Forecasters said as much as 20 inches of rain could be expected in the mountainous parts of west-central Mexico in Patricia's path. That rain swelled rivers into churning torrents of brown, speckled with floating debris and caused minor rockslides on some of the more heavily trafficked roadways, like this one, putting cleanup workers like Eddy Hernandez to work less than 24 hours after the storm had passed.

EDDY HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

ROTT: "We're sweeping because there's a lot of gravel on the road and it could cause an accident," he says. Further down the road, heavy equipment was working to plow away bigger mudslides and loose dirt that had fallen down the steep mountainsides. Patricia weakened quickly after crossing onto land, going from Category 5 to 4 to just a tropical depression within 14 hours of making landfall. Authorities were still really worried about the potential for major mudslides, though, in the mountainous regions where a number of smaller, more remote towns are.

But in the more populated parts of the state, people were breathing a sigh of relief that they dodged a bullet. In an outdoor mall, decorated for Halloween, not far from the city of Guadalajara, glass storefronts were taped to prevent wind damage. Others were lined with cardboard and had their merchandise moved towards the back of the stores. David Navarro is tearing the tape off of the glass of a household good rental shop. Inside, co-workers are taking the plastic bags off of flat-screen TVs and leather couches.

DAVID NAVARRO: (Speaking Spanish).

ROTT: He says that the worst has passed and now it's time for them to get back to work. Navarro says he didn't mind taking all of these precautionary measures for naught. It's better to be safe than sorry. Nathan Rott, NPR News, Manzanillo, Mexico. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott
Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.