Hurricane Agatha sets record after hitting Mexico at 105 mph
A hurricane went down in history as the strongest on record in the eastern Pacific in May – blowing at 105 mph.
Hurricane Agatha made landfall Monday afternoon in a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico.
After hitting Oaxaca State as a powerful Category 2 hurricane, it quickly lost strength as it moved inland over the mountainous interior.
Agatha was later downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday evening, with sustained winds up to 70 mph.
The US National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to dissipate overnight, but warned heavy rain was still a threat.
Howling winds and downpours whipped palm trees and drove tourists and residents to shelters.
The Oaxaca State Civil Defense Agency showed families scrambling in a shelter in Pochutla and a landslide and mud blocking a highway.
Heavy rain and big waves battered the seaside town of Zipolite, long known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe.
“There is a lot of rain and sudden gusts of wind,” said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel in Zipolite.
Ms Ranfagni, who decided to take Agatha out to the property, said: ‘You can hear the wind howling.
In the surf town of Puerto Escondido, people took shelter and installed plywood to keep windows from shattering in high winds.
The government’s Mexican Turtle Center – a former slaughterhouse turned conservation center in Mazunte – was closed to visitors due to the hurricane.
Agatha only formed on Sunday and quickly rose to power.
It is the most powerful hurricane on record to make landfall in May in the eastern Pacific, said Jeff Masters, meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections and founder of Weather Underground.
He said hurricanes in the region usually originate from tropical waves coming off African shores.
“Given that the African monsoon does not typically begin producing tropical waves until early or mid-May, there simply isn’t enough initial disturbance to cause many eastern Pacific hurricanes in May,” Masters wrote in an email.
“Additionally, water temperatures in May are cooler than they are at the height of the season and wind shear is generally higher.”