Hurricane Agatha sets a record as the strongest-ever hurricane to make landfall in May, then weakens over Mexico

PUERTO ESCONDIDO, Mexico — Hurricane Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane on record when it made landfall during the eastern Pacific hurricane center in May, impacting a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico.

The storm made landfall in Oaxaca state Monday afternoon as a strong Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (165 km/h), then quickly lost strength as it swept inland across the mountainous interior.

Agatha was downgraded to a tropical storm late Monday, with sustained winds dropping to 70 mph (110 km/h). The US National Hurricane Center said the storm should dissipate overnight but warned the system’s heavy rains still posed a threat of dangerous flash flooding to southern Mexico.

Torrential rain and howling winds lashed palm trees and drove tourists and residents to shelters. Oaxaca State Civil Protection showed families cramming into an emergency 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.

“There is a lot of rain and sudden strong gusts of wind,” said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of Hotel Casa Kalmar in Zipolite. Ranfagni, who decided to ride Agatha on 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 strong 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. It was 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,” Masters wrote in an email. “Also, May water temperatures are cooler than peak season and wind shear is typically higher.”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc7.com/mexico-weather-hurricane-agatha-record/11910870/ Hurricane Agatha sets a record as the strongest-ever hurricane to make landfall in May, then weakens over Mexico

Laura Coffey

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