Hurricane Kenna  -  Mexico  25 October  2002



NOAA sat pic of Hurricane Kenna approaching the Mexican Coast taken at 1730 GMT on 24 October, Villa Hidalgo is marked on the image.

Selected tracking maps from the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre  of Hurricane Kenna tracking toward Mexico

Warning 08
Warning 09
Warning 11
Warning 13
Warning 14

These amazing photos off the video shows the start and finish of the building that collapsed on me

Below is the actual report posted via satellite phone straight after Hurricane Kenna had passed through...

Update via satellite....25 Oct,1300hrs,  Villa Hidalgo, Hurricane Kenna roared ashore in southern Mexico at 0930hrs, local time, this report is brief as I am doing this update on the side of the road, Villa Hidalgo has been severely damaged, power and phones are out and all roads are blocked by debris and trees, as I was filming under the balcony of a solid concrete building the entire third floor collapsed onto the footpath, many tons of concrete and masonry fell all around me, apart from being covered in dust and debris neither myself or the camera...which recorded the whole thing, were damaged. The car was not so lucky and all the powerlines and poles bought down by the building collapse landed on the car, making a fast retreat difficult, I had to get in through the rear window and ram the car back and forth to get free of the wires....another day in the office...

Click on each of these photos for a larger version and caption...

October 24, 2002 started off like any normal day in my home city of Auckland, New Zealand, a sunny and warm day, perfect for a run on the beach. Half a world away, off the Pacific coast of Mexico, Hurricane Kenna was meandering north as it had been for several days, Kenna didn't impress me as a hurricane that would amount to much, on that morning its peak winds were only around 80 knots and even though it was now predicted to take a rare turn towards the coast ( instead of away from the coast into open waters like most hurricanes in this area do ) and make landfall it still wasnt worth going half way around the world for. I had been in contact with two US based storm chasers, Jim Leonard and Jim Edds via e mail discussing Hurricane Kenna and both of these people would play a vital role in what happened over the next 48 hours. I decided that Kenna wasnt worth chasing as the go or not go deadline approached, instead, started my car, and was just locking my door to go to the beach when I heard an e mail arrive in my in-box, I thought I would have a look at it just in case it was important,. was, it was Jim Leonard saying that Kenna was now rapidly intensifying and could be as strong as 120 knots when it made landfall and saying that I should go now.....I did, making hasty plans and boarding a plane for Los Angeles only 3 hours later followed by a mad dash for a connecting flight to Mazatlan in Southern Mexico. Arriving in Mazatlan at 6 pm at night and contacting stormchaser Jim Edds by Iridium sat phone I found that Kenna was indeed still on track for a landfall 280 kilometres south of Mazatlan at 5pm the following day and it had strengthened to a powerful Cat 4 hurricane. I decided to drive south immediately instead of staying in Mazatlan overnight in case it sped up or turned further south. Generally I have a rule of never driving in rural Mexico at night but this time I had is not dangerous for the usual "banditos" you hear about on TV, I ve yet to see one...,but the antics of long distance truck drivers driving huge rigs with several trailer units, often dilapidated, overloaded, and driven by people of questionable judgement performing amazing overtaking acts in torrential rain at high speed on blind corners at night usually in the face of oncoming traffic, I saw hundreds of such insane acts during the night each time trying to leave enough room for the debris to clear should two trucks collide head on...I ve seen what that looks like and it is not pretty. Keeping in touch with Jim Edds via sat phone we tried a new approach to accuracy in lining up the place that will get hit the worst , ie, where the center of the hurricane will cross the coast. On a north / south road this was as easy as using global positioning to line up the northern grid point, in this case,  21.5 north. That turned out to be the Ruiz truckstop on State Highway 15. I found a small hotel there with friendly locals who understood my bad spanish and whom I persuaded to evacuate their families out of the area...Kenna was now a dangerous Cat 5 hurricane packing winds gusting to over 300 kph. ! Severe damage was going to occur tomorrow. ...Awakening at 06 am, and talking with Jim Edds and downloading data off the sat phone I was shocked to find that Kenna, still a CAT 5, was now going to make landfall at 11 am instead of 5 pm..  Again using GPS and Jim Edds updates via the Iridium phone I  eventually lined up the village of Villa Hidalgo, a farming town near the sea coast 30 km south of Ruiz and exactly at 21.4 North, ...ground zero for the most violent winds. The sight that greeted me there was amazing, normal life was going on oblivious to the fact that in a few hours every one in that town would be in serious danger and the town would be largely destroyed. By this time I was so sure that this was inevitable that I told the local police and army what was going to happen and when and they were horrified, they knew the hurricane was going to hit somewhere nearby but had no idea they were in for a direct hit by the most powerful hurricane to hit this area in nearly 60 years. All they could really do was drive around the town with a fruit vendors truck with a loud hailer on it to try and clear the streets. An hour later the streets were more effectively cleared when Kenna arrived with torrential rain and high winds, soon, I was the only one left on the street, the army and police took shelter in a dump truck and fled the area. Filming from under a solid concrete balcony sheltered from the wind I was trying to get some spectacular footage of flying debris in relitave safety. Nothing much was happening, I had the camera turned off when all of a sudden all hell broke loose, the winds increased tremendously and debris started to fall everywhere, I no sooner had started rolling when part of a roof hit a passing car and more roof tiles hit my own car which I then drove up onto the footpath hard against the building, things were rapidly becoming life threatening, I moved the camera and tripod hard up against the wall, put on a hard hat and opened the windows on the car so I could get in and leave without going onto the street. What happened next was amazing, small bits of masonry and other debris started falling continuously, then with out warning a huge cascade of debris completely blocked out my view, everything went dark, when the dust cleared, I didnt have a mark on me, the camera was still running and apart from being completely covered in dust and debris, I was completely uninjured. After several four letter words were shouted I threw the camera in through the window then run in and dragged out the tripod and threw that in the car also which was covered with powerlines bought down by the building. It turned out the whole top story of a three story building had completely collapsed onto the street. Driving out of the danger was not easy, the power cables were to strong too break and had jammed under the car, I had to ram the car back and forward to loosen them and then reversed off them, basically moving from one area of extreme danger to another, I reversed blindly up the street in winds approaching 300 kph, the air was completely full of flying debris, things continuously hit the car. I reversed up behind a big truck, abandoned in the street, and that gave good cover from the debris although the truck soon rammed my car from behind as it started to move backward, I had to keep my foot on the brake to stop it..I watched one car with no one in it move off down the street and hit a building, the power of the wind was amazing, it was too dangerous to even think of getting out of the car with the anemometer to measure the wind speed, there was so much debris. It continued like this for an hour, during which time I rung Jim Edds on the sat phone and told him I hoped it wasnt going to get much stronger, it was already blowing over concrete buildings. ! He said the worst had passed....hmm, that took another 30 minutes to happen. When it was over several people were dead, killed by falling masonry, and the whole town was wrecked, every street was blocked, there was no power or phones, and dead dogs and other animals were lying in the streets. The Coca Cola factory was completely gone, only the front gates were left, vehicles were blown over and every truck on State Highway 15 was overturned or blown off the road. Making my way back to the Ruiz Hotel to collect the rest of my gear, I found my room flooded out but my usual practise of sealing up my excess gear and putting it up somewhere high worked. The bed was still dry so I stayed there overnight eventually finding a better room, everyone had evacuated except the housekeeper who just let me try and find a dry room myself. The next day I returned to Mazatlan and returned the slightly worse for wear car to the rental company who didnt seem too bothered as I had full insurance....hmm, wonder why I did that....checking the internet news later in the day showed Mt Etna to be in a beginning of a major eruption so there is no time to rest......another successful day in the office, Geoff Mackley  October 25  2002.

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