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Hurricane Rick swirls to life, expected to strengthen and target Mexico

By Brandon Buckingham, AccuWeather, Accuweather.com
Hurricane Rick swirls to life, expected to strengthen and target Mexico
Hurricane Rick formed off the coast of Mexico on Friday. Photo courtesy of NOAA

Mexico's southwestern Pacific coast will need to remain on high alert through the weekend as newly formed Hurricane Rick has churned up in the warm tropical waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean.

An eight-day lull in tropical activity in the eastern Pacific was snapped Friday morning as Tropical Depression 17-E formed roughly 500 miles south-southeast of Manzanillo, Mexico. By Friday afternoon, the swirling mass of showers and thunderstorms strengthened further, becoming the 17th named storm of the East Pacific season, Tropical Storm Rick.

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Rick continued to strengthen quickly and by Saturday morning it became the eighth hurricane of the East Pacific season.

As of 1 p.m. CDT Saturday, Rick was located about 195 miles south of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, and 185 southwest of Apapulco, Mexico, and was moving to the north-northwest at 7 mph. Rick was packing sustained winds of 85 mph and was a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

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To recall, Hurricane Pamela was the last storm to impact Mexico, which made landfall on Oct. 13 between Matzalan and La Paz, in the coastal state of Sinaloa. Pamela then raced northeastward through the mountainous terrain, spreading heavy rain and gusty winds northward. Although Pamela lost tropical characteristics before crossing the border into Texas, energy from the former storm managed to produce flooding rainfall and multiple tornadoes in Texas.

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A similar scenario is possible with newly formed Rick in the coming days, as a northward track towards Mexico's Pacific coast is expected.

Conditions across this zone of the eastern Pacific are favorable for Rick to strengthen further this weekend, as warm tropical waters and very little wind shear could open up the possibility of rapid intensification.

Infrared satellite view of Hurricane Rick Saturday morning off the southern coast of Mexico (AccuWeather).
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Sinaloa may be spared from the harshest weather Rick is expected to dish out, as a landfall farther south along the coast is expected by early next week. Many cities in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, and even Guerrero need to remain on alert this weekend as gusty winds and spiraling rainbands come ashore.

Residents and travelers in cities along Mexico's Carretera Pacífico Highway from Acapulco to La Manzanilla need to remain alert and vigilant throughout the weekend as the intensifying storm nears. Damaging wind gusts, flooding rainfall and massive swells can be expected as Rick nears the coast.

While the center of the forecast cone steers Rick near the coastal cities of Michoacán early next week, conditions will begin to go downhill late Saturday and Sunday as the outer bands begin to scrape the coast. During the same time frame, increasingly breezy conditions are expected to develop.

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Final preparations will need to be completed by Sunday night along the coast, as Rick is expected to close in on land by Monday morning. Rick is expected to briefly strengthen to a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) status prior to landfall, but the storm is expected to lose some wind intensity as it interacts with the mountainous terrain upon its final approach.

Regardless of any potential loss of wind intensity right before landfall, very heavy rain from Rick will track up Mexico's Pacific coast and into the rugged mountainous terrain. "Heavy rainfall on the order of 8-12 inches (200-300 mm) with an AccuWeather Local StormMax&trade of 20 inches (500 mm) will result in widespread flooding and mudslides across the region beginning Sunday and lasting through early next week," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Rob Miller stated.

Strong wind gusts will likely compromise the structural integrity of buildings near the center of Rick at landfall. "Damaging wind of 100-120 mph with an AccuWeather Local StormMax&trade of 140 mph is expected near and just east of the landfalling hurricane," Miller added.

Because of the risk for damaging wind gusts, flooding rainfall, storm surge and economic factors, Rick will be a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact&trade Scale for Hurricanes.

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After the expected landfall on Monday, Rick will likely roll northward through central and northern Mexico. The rugged terrain will likely begin to shred the low-level circulation associated with Rick, resulting in a rapid decrease in wind intensity. Rainfall will continue to be wrung out, potentially raising flooding concerns in Guadalajara, León and surrounding areas Monday night into Tuesday.

The remaining upper-level energy associated with Rick left after traversing the mountainous terrain of central and northern Mexico may then continue lifting northward by midweek next week. While there is still time to monitor the evolution and track of the storm, residents in Texas and along the Gulf coast will want to keep an eye out for wet weather.

For the latest weather news check back on AccuWeather.com. Watch the AccuWeather Network on DIRECTV, Frontier, Spectrum, fuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios. AccuWeather Now is now available on your preferred streaming platform.

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