Hurricane Agatha Sets May Record, Then Weakens Over Mexico


This satellite image made available by NOAA shows Hurricane Agatha off the Pacific coast of Oaxaca State, Mexico, on Monday, at 8:30 a.m. EDT. (NOAA via AP)

Hurricane Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane center, making landfall on a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico.

The storm came ashore in Oaxaca State Monday afternoon as a strong Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph), then it quickly lost power as it moved inland over the mountainous interior.

Agatha was downgraded to a tropical storm late Monday, its sustained winds down to 70 mph (110 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm should dissipate overnight, but warned that the system’s heavy rains still posed a threat of dangerous flash floods for Mexico’s southern states.

Torrential rains and howling winds whipped palm trees and drove tourists and residents into shelters. Oaxaca State’s civil defense agency showed families hustling into a shelter in Pochutla and a rock and mud slide that blocked a highway.

Agatha formed only on 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.

He said the region’s hurricanes typically get their start from tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa.

“Since the African monsoon typically does not start producing tropical waves until early- or mid-May, there simply aren’t enough initial disturbances to get many eastern Pacific hurricanes in May,” Masters wrote in an email. “In addition, May water temperatures are cooler than they are at the peak of the season, and wind shear is typically higher.”

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