A hurricane made history as the strongest on record to make landfall in the eastern Pacific in May – traveling at 105 miles per hour.
Hurricane Agatha struck a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico on Monday afternoon.
After striking the state of Oaxaca as a strong Category 2 hurricane, it quickly lost strength as it moved inland across the mountainous interior.
Agatha was then downgraded to a tropical storm late Monday, with sustained winds up to 70 mph.
12:30 pm. In Playa Agua Blanca, a tiny town between Puerto Escondido and Mazunte. Really trying to nail the middle #Hurricane #AGATHA. Let’s put it this way, hard hunting ground. #Mexico pic.twitter.com/L3zMzwMfdh
— Josh Morgerman (@iCyclone) May 30, 2022
The US National Hurricane Center said the storm should dissipate overnight but warned heavy rains still pose a threat.
Howling winds and downpours lashed palm trees and drove tourists and residents to shelters.
The Oaxaca state civil defense agency showed families thronging at a shelter in Pochutla and a rock and mud slide blocking a highway.
Heavy rain and big waves lashed the beach town of Zipolite, long known for its shirtless beach and bohemian vibe.
“It’s raining a lot and sudden strong gusts of wind,” said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of Hotel Casa Kalmar in Zipolite.
Since records began in 1949, this is the strongest hurricane to make landfall along the Pacific coast of Mexico in May. pic.twitter.com/dUraseRoDe
— NHC East Pacific (@NHC_Pacific) May 30, 2022
Ms Ranfagni, who decided to ride Agatha around the property, said: “You can hear the wind howling.”
In the surf town of Puerto Escondido, people took shelter and erected plywood to keep windows from shattering in high winds.
The Mexican government’s turtle center — a former slaughterhouse turned conservation center in Mazunte — is closed to visitors because of the hurricane.
Agatha only formed on Sunday and quickly gained power.
#Agatha has landed. With a peak wind speed of 105 km/h, it is…
– #Mexicostrongest hurricane landfall since records began before June 15
— Jake Carstens (@JakeCarstens) May 30, 2022
It’s the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in the eastern Pacific in May, said Jeff Masters, meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections and founder of Weather Underground.
He said the region’s hurricanes usually originate from tropical waves that come off the coast of Africa.
“Because the African monsoons don’t typically start producing tropical waves until early or mid-May, there just isn’t enough initial disruption to get many east Pacific hurricanes in May,” Mr. Masters wrote in an email.
“Additionally, May water temperatures are cooler than peak season and wind shear is typically higher.”