Historic Hurricane Agatha made landfall in Mexico’s southern coast when severe storm surges and driving rain sparked fears of deadly flooding and mudslides on Monday.
Agatha made landfall about 5 miles west of Puerto Angel as a strong Category 2 storm around 2:00 p.m. PT, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. It was moving northeast at 8 mph.
By 5 p.m. PT, the hurricane’s maximum sustained winds decreased to about 80 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm’s center is expected to continue moving inland throughout the night with “rapid weakening.”
“Agatha is expected to weaken to a tropical storm overnight and dissipate over southeastern Mexico by late Tuesday,” the hurricane center said.
agatha is the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the eastern Pacific in May. Up to 20 inches of rain was forecast in some areas.
“Near the coast, the swell will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” warned National Weather Service hurricane specialist John Cangialosi, and deeper into Mexico, “life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides can occur.”
AccuWeather meteorologists said that as it crosses Mexico and enters Campeche Bay in the coming days, Agatha could redevelop into the former Atlantic Basin storm.
In Oaxaca, heavy rainfall in 2018 caused a hill to collapse and flood the rural town of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec. At least 16 people were killed and the city was destroyed.
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In Huatulco, the municipal authorities had canceled the schools and ordered “the absolute closure” of all beaches and the seven coves, many of which can only be reached by boat.
The Mexican government’s Turtle Center – a former slaughterhouse that is now a conservation center in Mazunte – has announced it will be closed to visitors until further notice due to the hurricane.
AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff said only two hurricanes in history made landfall in Mexico in May — Barbara on May 29, 2013 and an earlier Agatha on May 24, 1971 — both were Category 1 storms.
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Strong land winds along the coast of Oaxaca will push water from Agatha down the coast, and storm surges of up to 10 feet are expected, Accuweather said.
A string of touristy beaches and fishing villages are at risk. Heavy rain and high waves hit Zipolite, a seaside town with a clothing-optional beach, sea turtle conservation area, and protected coral reefs.
“The ocean is really bad and it rains a lot,” said Silvia Ranfagni, the manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel in Zipolite. She said she would drive Agatha out of the property.
The tropical season in the eastern Pacific, which started on May 15, could be more damaging than usual. AccuWeather predicts a normal to above normal season with 15-19 named storms; six to eight of them could reach hurricane status. The first is Agatha.
“Floods are expected to have some of the biggest impacts in southern Mexico and parts of Central America,” said Dan Pydynowski, AccuWeather’s senior meteorologist. “Additional heavy rainfall is expected after the storm, which could lead to additional flooding and hinder clean-up efforts.”
Contributors: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press;