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Patricia becomes a Category 5 hurricane as it nears Mexico’s Pacific coast

Hurricane Patricia further strengthened on Thursday evening, becoming a powerful category five hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 160 miles (260 kilometers) per hour, forecasters say.

"Patricia continues to explosively intensify, with the eye becoming warmer and better defined, along with a solid ring of very cold -90C cloud tops in the eyewall," said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Patricia has gone from a tropical storm to a major category 5 hurricane in 24 hours, an astonishing rate of intensification that, since the satellite era began, was only achieved by Hurricane Linda in 1997.

"The hurricane could strengthen a little more before increasing southwesterly shear causes Patricia to weaken some by Friday afternoon, although it should remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through landfall," Blake said. "Confidence is high that Patricia will make landfall in the hurricane warning area along the coast of Mexico as an extremely dangerous major hurricane Friday afternoon or evening. Preparations to protect life and property in the hurricane warning area should be completed as tropical storm conditions will begin to affect the warning area overnight or early Friday."

A hurricane warning is in effect from San Blas to Punta San Telmo while both a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning are in effect from the east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas.

In addition to the coastal impacts, very heavy rainfall is likely to cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero beginning late Thursday and continuing into Saturday, the National Hurricane Center warns. Total rainfall accumulations may reach up to 12 inches (30.4 cm), with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches (50.8 cm).

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