The small Pacific coast town of Melaque in Mexico’s western state of Jalisco has slowly returned to normal on Sunday after being relentlessly whipped by Hurricane Patricia.
The category five hurricane, which touched down near Melaque at Friday dusk, threatened to wreak havoc with heavy rains and ferocious winds of up to 340 km per hour.
While it began to weaken shortly after making landfall, it was powerful enough to uproot trees, destroy the woven-palm palapa roofs typical of Mexico’s seasides, and dump sand inland.
After the sweeping of the storm, the town’s approximately 4,000 inhabitants who had heeded warnings to stay indoors or been evacuated to shelters, emerged from their homes to clear away debris and prepare for the annual peak tourism season after the storm, which begins in November.
Veronica Arana, owner of badly-hit beach-front restaurant Tito’s Place, was thankful no one was hurt, but lamented the extensive material damage.
“Thank god we’re all OK, my family and my neighbors, but unfortunately we’ve lost part of what we owned. They’re material goods, it affects our economy,” she said.
Arana and her family stayed at a shelter set up by the state government.
They returned to find tables and chairs washed away by surging waters. In their place, sand and even a fishing skiff had made it inside.
Her concern is only matched by her determination to put things in order, as she reaches for a broom.
The sound of people sweeping fills the air, as townspeople try to clear away the sand that has completely buried the sidewalks and cobblestone streets.
A fleet of trucks from the national electric company Luz y Fuerza has also rolled into town to repair damage to cables.
“I think the hurricane affected us a lot, but not as much as we were expecting. So nose to the grindstone is needed to recover our town and our lives, and await the arrival of our tourists,” resident Joaquin Chaires said.
Patricia, which weakened into a tropical storm almost as quickly as it strengthened into a potentially catastrophic hurricane of historic proportions, closed major area roadways for two days, including the highway linking Jalisco’s capital and Mexico’s second-largest city Guadalajara with the neighboring state of Colima and its beach resort of Manzanillo.
That precautionary measure minimized accidents, but could not prevent the road signs and billboards from being knocked onto the tarmac.
Official reports said the hurricane caused material damage to at least 41 cities in Jalisco, Colima and central Michoacan state.
As part of preventive measures, some 50,000 residents along the coasts were evacuated to shelters Friday. On Saturday, after Patricia was downgraded to a tropical storm, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto lifted the state of emergency.