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Hurricane Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in May during the Eastern Pacific hurricane center, making landfall in a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico.
The storm landed in Oaxaca state on Monday afternoon as a powerful Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 km/h), then quickly lost power as it moved inland over the mountainous interior.
Agatha was downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday evening, with sustained winds dropping to 110 km/h. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to dissipate overnight, but warned heavy rains from the system still posed a dangerous flash flood threat to southern states in Mexico.
Torrential rains and howling winds whipped palm trees and drove tourists and locals to shelters. The Oaxaca State Civil Defense Agency showed families scrambling in a shelter in Pochutla and a landslide and mud blocking a highway.
TROPICAL STORM AGATHA EXPECTED TO BECOME HURRICANE OVER EASTERN PACIFIC
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.
NASA SATELLITE CAPTURES “SHARKCANO” ERUPTION
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.
AS THE WEATHER CHANGES, NEW MEXICO FIRE NEAR 50% CONTAINMENT
He said hurricanes in the region usually originate from tropical waves coming off African shores.
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“Since the African monsoon does not typically begin producing tropical waves until early or mid-May, there simply isn’t enough initial disturbance to cause many Eastern Pacific hurricanes in May.” , Masters wrote in an email. “Additionally, water temperatures in May are cooler than they are at the height of the season, and wind shear is generally higher.”
The The New Zealand Times contributed to this report.