Jose Maria Alvarez. By
PUERTO ESCONDIDO, Mexico ( Associated Press) — Hurricane Agatha made history during the Eastern Pacific Hurricane Center as the strongest storm ever recorded to hit the coast in May, leaving small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico. Landslides occurred in sparsely populated areas.
The storm hit Oaxaca state Monday afternoon as a strong Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165kph), then quickly lost strength as it moved inland onto the mountainous interior.
Agatha was downgraded to a tropical storm late Monday, with its sustained winds down to 70 mph (110 kph). The US National Hurricane Center said the storm should dissipate overnight, but warned the system’s heavy rains still threatened dangerous flooding for Mexico’s southern states.
Torrential rains and strong winds killed palm trees and pushed tourists and residents into shelters. Oaxaca state’s civil protection agency showed families a shelter in Pochutla and a rock and mud slide blocking a highway.
Heavy rains and big waves ravaged the beach town of Zipolite, long known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe.
“There’s a lot of rain and strong gusts of wind,” said Sylvia Ranfgani, manager of the Casa Calmar hotel in Zipolite. “You can hear the wind roaring,” said Ranfgani, who decided to ride Agatha over the property.
In the surfing town of Puerto Escondido, people took shelter and installed plywood to prevent windows from cracking in strong winds.
The government’s Mexican Turtle Center – a former slaughterhouse turned conservation center in Mazunte – closed to visitors due to the storm.
Agatha was formed only on Sunday and quickly gained power. It was the strongest storm on record to make landfall in the eastern Pacific in May, said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections and founder of Weather Underground.
He said that storms in the region are usually triggered by tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa.
“Since the African monsoon typically does not begin producing tropical waves until early or mid-May, there is not enough initial disturbance in May to cause many East Pacific storms,” Masters wrote in an email. “In addition, May water temperatures are cooler than they are at the peak of the season, and wind gusts are generally higher.”