One of the nice things about living in Las Vegas is that you’re largely immune from natural disasters. There is the risk of earthquakes, but nowhere near the same risk that exists in neighboring California. No major, destructive earthquake has hit Las Vegas since being settled by Europeans in the mid 1850s.
Of course, nowhere is ever completely safe from Mother Nature. Destructive thunderstorms and tornadoes can basically happen anywhere, as can other events like blizzards, floods, etc. The winds in the spring and fall can be very ferocious, but seldom do any kind of widespread damage.
The point is there’s a kind of dulling of the senses that can happen when you live there a few years. A feeling you can’t really be touched by nature and the hubris that can go along with that.
When we moved to Puerto Vallarta, we knew that hurricanes were a possibility. Still, we researched and learned that major hurricanes here are very rare, due to a variety of factors including how south in latitude it is, the nature of how Pacific hurricanes move through the ocean and a quirk of geography in that the city of Puerto Vallarta is somewhat protected by one of the largest bays on the Earth – the Bay of Banderas.
Those offer only some protection though. Hurricane Kenna struck in 2002 as one of the strongest storms ever recorded and only spared catastrophic damage in Puerto Vallarta by missing a direct hit on the area by 75 or so miles.
So those natural protections came as cold comfort as we watched a tropical storm form in the Pacific and develop into Hurricane Nora, which struck the Jalisco coast yesterday. We knew we should be safe in our well-built condo, which sits 100 feet above the coast. The rain was strong, though the winds weren’t as bad as we feared, topping out around maybe 35 mph. Compared to the winds we were used to in Las Vegas, it was not a big deal. We tracked the storm online and celebrated that it swung off the coast as predicted and the worst of the storm was centered about 40 miles west of Puerto Vallarta, another near miss it seemed. We went to bed convinced we had dodged a bullet.
Much to our surprise, we woke up this morning to discover that the massive rains, especially in the Sierra Madre mountains to the east caused the Rio Cuale to flood, causing serious destruction to buildings near the river and destroying the two vehicle bridges that connect El Centro (downtown Puerto Vallarta) to the Zona Romantica. Essentially the two major tourist/commercial areas of town have mostly been severed from each other until the bridges can be rebuilt.
Some apartment buildings collapsed and one of our favorite restaurants on the river was completely destroyed/washed away. At this moment, at least two people including one young boy are missing and feared dead.
It’s a weird feeling knowing that these places where you spend so much time are gone, washed away in an instant and it’s even weirder realizing not only could it have been much, much worse the same thing is happening right now with Hurricane Ida in the Gulf Coast, a massively stronger storm that will make the damage in Puerto Vallarta look like child’s play.
If this was a near miss from a category 1 hurricane, I want no part of anything bigger. Fortunately, our colonia (neighborhood) was spared and aside from the damage from the Cuale flooding, most of the city was spared serious damage as well.
Not that I needed it, I have a much healthier respect for Mother Nature as well. I saw some mocking posts on Facebook last night from some locals after Nora passed about people who prepared for the storm having overreacted. I’m guessing after the damage this morning that most of those have been deleted.