Hurricane Agatha may make historic early-season landfall in Mexico

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May 30 (UPI) — Hurricane Agatha, the first named storm of the year in the East Pacific Ocean, remained on a collision course with the southern Mexico coastline, AccuWeather forecasters said. Agatha is on track to stamp its mark in the weather history books as forecasters warn of high risk to life and property when the storm makes landfall on Monday.

Agatha, a Category 2 storm, had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph as 4 p.m. CDT, the National Hurricane Center said in an update. It was located about 5 miles west of Puerto Angel Mexico and was moving northeast at 8 mph.

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AccuWeather meteorologists have rated Agatha a 3 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes in Mexico as a result of the storm’s damaging winds and significant flooding threat.

The government of Mexico hoisted hurricane warnings from Salina Cruz to Lagunas de Chacahua, Mexico, ahead of impact. Winds within the center of the storm had reached 75 mph (120 km/h), Category 1 hurricane strength, at 7 a.m. CDT Sunday, a little over 24 hours after Tropical Storm Agatha formed.

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“Agatha is expected to maintain intensity as it tracks northeastward turn towards the southern coast of Mexico,” Dan Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather who regularly issues tropical outlooks for the Atlantic and East Pacific basins, said.

AccuWeather meteorologists expect Agatha to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane (maximum sustained winds of 96-110 mph or 154-177 km/h) late Monday afternoon along the southern coast of Mexico in the state of Oaxaca.

If the storm makes landfall at Category 2 or higher intensity, it would be the strongest May hurricane to ever make landfall in the eastern Pacific basin. Only two hurricanes in recorded history have made landfall in Mexico during the month of May — Barbara on May 29, 2013, and Agatha on May 24, 1971 — both of which were Category 1 hurricane strength.

Conditions along the southwestern coast of Mexico already began to deteriorate early Monday morning as the outermost rain squalls moved onshore. As Agatha approaches the coastline, conditions in Oaxaca and Chiapas will continue to worsen.

An AccuWeather Local StormMax™ wind gust of 145 mph (230 km/h) is forecast near where the center of Agatha moves onshore. Anyone without adequate shelter from these fierce winds will be subject to flying debris.

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These strong winds can also kick up dangerous surf along the entire southern coast of Mexico, making it dangerous for swimmers to enter the water and for boaters to venture offshore.

Large and destructive waves will not be the only coastal hazard. Strong onshore winds will cause water to pile up at the coast, with a storm surge of up to 10 feet (3 meters) expected to cause inundation near and to the east of where the center of Agatha moves onshore.

“Flooding rainfall is expected to be one of the biggest impacts across southern Mexico and parts of Central America,” Pydynowski said.

Heavy rain is likely to pour down from Acapulco to Oaxaca and Tehuacán, Mexico, through Tuesday, posing a significant risk to life and property.

“The heaviest rain will fall across the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, causing flash flooding, mudslides and road closures,” Pydynowski said.

Residents living in and around mountainous areas will be at the highest risk to experience these life-threatening dangers, as the steep slopes can easily give way once the ground becomes extremely saturated. Mudslides can occur with little warning, making it vital for people to be aware of rapidly changing conditions and have an emergency plan in place.

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Rain amounts of 6 inches (150 mm) or more are expected to be widespread across southern Mexico during the life span of the storm. Coastal portions of Oaxaca and Chiapas can expect the highest rain amounts of 8-12 inches (200-300 mm). Mountainous areas will be most likely to reach the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 28 inches (710 mm).

“Additional heavy rainfall is expected after the storm which can lead to additional flooding and hamper cleanup efforts,” Pydynowski said.

The 2022 East Pacific tropical season is off to a quick start after beginning on May 15. AccuWeather forecasters are predicting a normal to above-normal season with 15-19 named storms and the possibility of six to eight of them reaching hurricane force. The normal count of named storms in the basin is about 15 storms, with eight achieving hurricane status.

AccuWeather meteorologists will be closely monitoring the leftover energy from Agatha as it crosses Mexico and enters Atlantic basin waters of the southern Gulf of Mexico and the northwestern Caribbean Sea. There is now a 50/50 chance it could redevelop into the Atlantic’s first named storm.