15,000 tourists evacuated as Hurricane Patricia nears Mexico

Travelers visiting Puerto Vallarta and other vacation spots on Mexico’s Pacific coast evacuated or sought shelter on Friday as Hurricane Patricia — the strongest hurricane ever recorded — came closer.

About 15,000 foreign and domestic tourists were moved to shelters in Jalisco state ahead of the powerful hurricane’s landfall, expected on Friday evening, said Jose Maria Tapia, director general of the National Disaster Prevention Center.

All flights to and from Puerto Vallarta’s airport were suspended ahead of the storm, Federal Police tweeted.

Some visitors were lucky enough to get on the last flights out.

Twitter user @MyEverLights was pleased to get a seat. “Flight is here! Only flight today. Feeling very lucky to be on it. Praying for everyone still here #Patricia,” the post reads.

Other travelers have been less fortunate.

Brad Powles is vacationing in Puerto Vallarta with his partner of six years at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.

They received a stark warning from hotel management about what to expect during the storm: “Once in the shelter you are not anymore considered a guest. … (S)ervices will be very basic,” the hotel’s note reads in part.

Powles was supposed to fly back to the United States on Saturday, but he expects to ride out the storm in the hotel shelter on the first floor.

He said he’s nervous but is trying to stay upbeat and keep his parents back home from worrying. “Thank god for Wi-Fi,” he said.

Stranded hotel guests are being evacuated from Puerto Vallarta to inland locations.

CNN iReporter Louisa Valentin arrived with her boyfriend on Wednesday to attend a Thursday wedding. On Friday, they were evacuated to Instituto Tepeyac Campus, a local school.

“We were instructed to only bring one small bag,” she told CNN. “The rest of our belongings we were told to leave inside our room in the closed bathroom area.”

They didn’t go hungry. Resort workers delivered lunch and snack items to the school, she said.

Jonathan Lake told CNN that he planned to ride out the storm in Puerto Vallarta, partly to watch his property and also to assist in the cleanup. The normally busy streets were empty, he said.

“It’s like a ghost town,” he said.

On Thursday, the Four Seasons Punta Mita transported guests to Guadalajara.

Hotel officials were preparing an underground shelter for staff and guests who are staying because they couldn’t get a flight out, had nowhere to seek refuge or faced traffic jams that made it too difficult to find safety.

Around midday Friday, “we will start moving remaining guests and staff into designated shelter,” said Thomas Citterio, director of marketing at the Punta Mita.

At the Bay View Grand Condo, guest Mark Sullivan snapped a photo of his view of boarded windows. He was evacuating to Guadalajara.

At the Comfort Inn in Puerto Vallarta, 200 guests are hunkering down in a designated safe room.

Hotel officials have boarded up windows and are communicating with authorities should they need to evacuate, said Samuel Ruic, the front desk manager.

Hotels have reached out to upcoming guests to postpone travel plans.

U.S. airlines are waiving change fees for flights in and out of the region over the next several days. Alaska Airlines canceled its 10 Friday flights to and from Puerto Vallarta.

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