MEXICO CITY – The first hurricane of the season formed off Mexico’s southern Pacific coast on Sunday and rapidly gained power ahead of an expected strike along a stretch of tourist beaches and fishing towns.
Hurricane Agatha could make landfall at close to major hurricane force on Monday in the area near Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel in the southern state of Oaxaca — a region that includes the laid-back tourist resorts of Huatulco, Mazunte and Zipolite.
Around midday Sunday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said the recently formed hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph) and it was centred about 195 miles (315 kilometres) west-southwest of Puerto Angel. It was heading to the north at 2 mph (4 kph).
A hurricane warning was in effect between the port of Salina Cruz and the Lagunas de Chacahua.
The civil defence office in Oaxaca said the hurricane’s outer bands were already hitting the coast. The office published photos of fishermen hauling their boats up on beaches to protect them from the storm.
The government’s Mexican Turtle Center — a former slaughterhouse turned conservation centre in Mazunte — announced it was closed to visitors until further notice because of the hurricane.
The Hurricane Center warned of dangerous costal flooding, as well as large and destructive waves near where Agatha makes landfall and destructive waves.
The storm was expected to bring 10 to 16 inches (250 to 400 millimetres) of rain to parts of Oaxaca state — with isolated maximums of 20 inches (500 millimetres) — posing the threat of flash flooding and mudslides.
Because the storm’s current path would carry it over the narrow waist of Mexico’s isthmus, the centre said there was a chance the storm’s remnants could reemerge over the Gulf of Mexico.
In northern Guatemala, a woman and her six children died Saturday when a landslide engulfed their home, but the accident did not appear to be related to Agatha.