Hurricane Agatha makes landfall in Mexico


Hurricane Agatha made landfall at 4 p.m. PT Monday west of Puerto Angel, Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

This is the oldest Category 2 storm to make landfall along Mexico’s Pacific coast.

The National Hurricane Center warned of “extremely dangerous” coastal flooding from storms and “life-threatening” hurricane winds in the state of Oaxaca. Heavy rain is expected to continue over southern Mexico until Tuesday.

The US National Hurricane Center said the storm is expected to drop 10 to 16 inches of rain over parts of Oaxaca with a maximum of 20 inches, posing a risk of flooding and mudslides.

Near Puerto Angel, gusts of wind, torrential rain and rough waves began hitting the beach town of Zipolite, long known for its no-fuss beach and bohemian vibe, on Sunday night. Inauspicious gray skies and sandy beaches at popular destinations Puerto Escondido, Puerto Angel and Huatulco.

“There is a lot of rain and sudden strong winds,” said Silvia Ranvagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar Hotel in Zipolite. “The ocean has really been stirred, and it is raining a lot,” said Ranvani, who decided to ride Agatha at the property. “You can hear the howling of the wind.”

National emergency officials said they have set up a task force of more than 9,300 people in the area and more than 200 shelters have been opened as meteorologists have warned of a dangerous storm surge and flooding caused by torrential rain.

Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections and founder of Weather Underground, said hurricanes in the region typically start from tropical waves coming from the coast of Africa.

“Since the African monsoons don’t start producing tropical waves until early or mid-May, there are simply not enough initial disturbances to have many eastern Pacific cyclones in May,” Masters wrote in an email. “In addition, water temperatures in May are cooler than at the height of the season, and wind shear is usually higher.”

Teachers weren’t sure if Agatha had come off a tropical wave — areas of low pressure moving through the tropics — but the storm took advantage of warm water and low wind shear.

Late Monday morning, Agatha accelerated slightly, moving toward the area near Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel in the southern state of Oaxaca. The area includes the quiet tourist resorts of Huatulco, Mazunte and Zipolite.

In Huatulco, municipal authorities have canceled schools and ordered a “total closure” of all beaches and its seven bays, many of which can only be reached by boat.

The government’s Mexican Turtle Center — a former slaughterhouse turned conservation center in Mazunte — has announced that it is closed to visitors until further notice due to the hurricane.