A man leaves his house in Boca de Pascuales, Colima State, Mexico, on Oct. 22, 2015, before the arrival of hurricane Patricia.
Photograph by Hector Guerrero — AFP/Getty Images
By Janet Hewitt
October 24, 2015

My home in Puerta Vallarta is an apartment one block from the ocean, behind several beachfront mansions. Because it’s around 40 feet off the ground, I decided to stay. Yes, I took precautions, of course. I had a fanny pack with cash, ID, cell phone, crank flashlight/radio, and my camera. I had bottled water to drink, bananas, a bunch of cold cuts and a loaf of bread. I stockpiled several gallons of fresh water, candles, and a first-aid kit.

My apartment has four large arched wrought iron and glass doors facing the Pacific Ocean. The big danger for me was the wind. If the wind hit at the predicted 200 miles per hour, the glass doors would have busted inwards, with shards of glass swirling around the entire apartment. The only safe place was in the back bathroom shower stall, but there was a window back there, so it was still a little dodgy. The building is brick, but there was no telling how structurally strong it is. I was the only person in the building.

It’s amazing how sharp your focus can get when you’re in survival mode. At the last minute, I had thoughts to grab an army knife, blow up the air mattress for flotation, use the stockpot as a hard hat, find string to keep the eyeglasses on, etc. I did all that.

A few neighbors in the building next door hunkered down like I did. One was a man in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down, who stayed with his 80-year old mother. They seemed terrified. Another neighbor, a Canadian fellow, was calmly watching a movie as his dog shook uncontrollably from the low barometric pressure. Another neighbor, a columnist for the local newspaper, was monitoring everything minute by minute and posting updates to the ex-pat community on the web. He and his wife, a former interpreter for the government, invited me over. As Patricia approached, I drank Limoncello and hung out with them.

Patricia made landfall at 6:15 p.m. 110 miles south of Puerto Vallarta. I was back in my own bed at 10 p.m. and fell asleep to the sound of light rain delivered by a storm that dissipated into a tropical depression. I awoke this morning to the sound of birds and the ocean. It is a beautiful, calm, sunny day.

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