Hurricane Agatha sets a record for May landfall, then weakens over Mexico
Hurricane Agatha made history as the strongest recorded hurricane to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season, ripping off roofs and washing out roads before fading in southern Mexico.
The storm hit Oaxaca state Monday afternoon as a strong Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, then quickly lost power as it moved inland over the mountainous interior.
Remnants of Agatha were moving northeast Tuesday into Veracruz state, with sustained winds down to 30 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm should dissipate by the evening, but warned that the system’s heavy rains still posed a threat of dangerous floods for Mexico’s southern states.
Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat told local media that the state’s emergency services office had no reports of deaths. Several municipalities near the coast remained without power Tuesday and mudslides blocked a number of the state’s highways.
San Isidro del Palmar, only a couple miles inland from the coast, was swamped by the Tonameca River that flows through town.
Residents made their way through neck-deep water to salvage what items they could from their homes, piling clothing atop their heads and carrying religious figures.
It used to be that Atlantic hurricanes would lose most of their strength within a day of making landfall. Due to climate change, that’s no longer true.
Argeo Aquino, who had lived in the town his whole life, could recall only two other occasions when he saw such flooding.
“The houses are totally flooded, so they are getting everything out,” Aquino said Monday as he watched his neighbors. “There are stores, houses. More than anything else, we have to try to save all the good material, because everything else is going to be washed away.”
The Tonameca’s brown waters reached the windows of parked cars and the minibuses used for local transportation.
Nearby, heavy rain and high winds lashed the beach town of Zipolite, known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe. The wind howled for about six hours on Monday, said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel in Zipolite.
“The sound of the wind was really loud, high-pitched,” Ranfagni said. “It started at 1 p.m. when the telephone coverage went out and it didn’t calm down until 7:30.
“A lot of trees were down, roads washed out,” she said. “A lot of metal and thatched roofs were blown off.”
Agatha formed Sunday and quickly gained power. It was the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in May in the eastern Pacific, said Jeff Masters, meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections and the founder of Weather Underground.
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