Hurricane Agatha makes history as strongest hurricane ever recorded to come ashore in May during eastern Pacific hurricane season.
Mexican officials are clearing highways blocked by mudslides along the country’s southern coast, after record-breaking Hurricane Agatha battered the region with torrential rains and strong winds.
Agatha on Tuesday morning weakened to a tropical depression and is expected to dissipate by afternoon, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), which warned of life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in Oaxaca state.
The storm made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on Monday afternoon, touching down with 169km per hour winds (105 miles per hour) near the beach town of Puerto Angel on the Pacific coast before losing strength as it moved inland.
Oaxaca state’s emergency services office said late on Monday that it had no reports of deaths.
Since record keeping began in 1949, this is the strongest hurricane to make landfall in May along the Pacific coast of Mexico. pic.twitter.com/dUraseRoDe
— NHC Eastern Pacific (@NHC_Pacific) May 30, 2022
Agatha, the strongest hurricane on record to reach land on Mexico’s Pacific coast during the month of May, is expected to drop a total of 25-41cm (10 to 16 inches) of rain on Oaxaca.
Heavy downpours are also expected in the nearby states of Chiapas, Veracruz, Tabasco and eastern Guerrero, the NHC said.
Rain caused mud and rocks to slide into two highways in Oaxaca, blocking access to at least one area of the state, local authorities said. Mexico’s transportation ministry was working to clear the roads into the night on Monday.
Torrential rains and howling winds whipped palm trees and drove tourists and residents into shelters. Oaxaca state’s civil defence agency showed families hustling into a shelter in Pochutla and a rock-and-mud slide that blocked a highway.
Heavy rain and big waves lashed the beach town of Zipolite, long known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe.
“There is a lot of rain and sudden gusts of strong wind,” said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel in Zipolite. Ranfagni, who decided to ride out Agatha at the property, said as the storm approached, “You can hear the wind howling.”
In Oaxaca, some towns lost power, and one transformer exploded, officials said on Monday. Telephone lines were knocked out, forcing authorities to communicate by radio.
In the surfing town of Puerto Escondido, people took shelter and put up plywood to prevent windows from breaking in the strong winds.
The storm came after US federal meteorologists last week forecasted another record-shattering Atlantic hurricane season, for the seventh consecutive year.
Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated 14 to 21 named storms, six to 10 of which will become hurricanes, with three to six of those developing into major hurricanes during the June-1-to-November-30 Atlantic hurricane season.