Agatha hits the southern coast of Mexico as the strongest hurricane in May | Local News

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PUERTO ESCONDIDO, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Agatha, the most powerful hurricane on record to make landfall in the eastern Pacific in May, swept across a stretch of tourist beaches and fishing villages on Monday, then s is weakened as it moves inland over the mountains of southern Mexico.

Torrential rains and howling winds whipped palm trees and swept tourists and residents into shelters as Agatha pushed through a coastal region sparsely populated except for a handful of small communities along the shore.

The Oaxaca State Civil Defense Agency showed families scrambling in a shelter in Pochutla and a landslide and mud blocking the highway between that city and the state capital.

Agatha made landfall about 10 kilometers west of Puerto Angel in the late afternoon as a strong Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph). But it quickly began to lose strength as it moved inland.

Late Monday, it was downgraded to a tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph). The US National Hurricane Center said Agatha was expected to dissipate overnight, but warned that heavy rains from the system still posed a dangerous flash flood threat.

Earlier in the day, wind, heavy rain and big waves battered the seaside town of Zipolite, long known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe.

“There is a lot of rain and sudden gusts of wind,” said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel in Zipolite. Ranfagni, who decided to take Agatha out to the property, said: “You can hear the wind howling.”

In the surf town of Puerto Escondido, people took shelter and installed plywood to keep windows from shattering in high winds.

The government’s Mexican Turtle Center – a former slaughterhouse turned conservation center in Mazunte – was closed to visitors due to the hurricane.

Agatha only formed on Sunday and quickly rose to power. It is the most powerful hurricane on record to make landfall in May in the eastern Pacific, said Jeff Masters, meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections and founder of Weather Underground.

He said hurricanes in the region usually originate from tropical waves coming off African shores.

“Since the African monsoon doesn’t usually start producing tropical waves until early or mid-May, there simply isn’t enough initial disturbance to cause many eastern Pacific hurricanes in May. “, wrote Masters in an e-mail. “Additionally, water temperatures in May are cooler than they are at the height of the season, and wind shear is generally higher.”

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Agatha could drop 10 to 16 inches (250 to 400 millimeters) of rain over parts of Oaxaca, with isolated highs of 20 inches (500 millimeters), posing the threat flash floods and mudslides. He said lesser amounts could fall in adjacent states to the east and northeast.

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