Thursday, June 20, 2024

Hurricane Otis is strongest ever to hit Mexico’s Pacific coast

Hurricane Otis made landfall near Acapulco as a powerful Category 5 storm early Wednesday, bringing extremely strong winds and heavy rain to the Pacific coast resort city and surrounding areas.

The storm was stronger than Hurricane Pauline, which claimed hundreds of lives in Guerrero and Oaxaca in 1997.

Category 5 Hurricane Otis made landfall just after 12 a.m. on Wednesday Oct. 25, causing blackouts, flooding and terror throughout the night. (Andrea Murcia/Cuartoscuro)

Otis, which strengthened very quickly into a major hurricane after being upgraded from tropical storm status on Tuesday morning, flooded homes and roads, toppled trees and caused significant damage to buildings in Acapulco, but no deaths had been reported as of 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“The hurricane hit Guerrero very hard,” President López Obrador said at his Wednesday morning press conference, noting that Acapulco, Coyuca de Benítez, Benito Juárez and Técpan de Galeana were among the municipalities most affected.

He said that no deaths had been reported, but acknowledged that communication “had been completely lost” in the area, where electricity, telephone and internet services were cut off.

The United States National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported that satellite imagery showed that Otis made landfall near Acapulco at about 12:25 a.m. Mexico City time.

“The maximum sustained winds are estimated to be 165 mph (270 km/h),” the agency said a short time after the hurricane hit.

At 9 a.m., Otis was a Category 1 hurricane with maximum winds of 130 km/h, according to the NHC. It was located 160 km north-northwest of Acapulco near Ciudad Altamirano.

The powerful winds brought by the hurricane shattered windows and sent objects flying through the air in Acapulco, according to a report by Aristegui Noticias. The newspaper Reforma reported that hotels were among the buildings damaged, while the Associated Press said that “downed trees, persistent rain and flooding made it difficult to move” in coastal areas of Guerrero.

A photograph showed that the Galerías Diana shopping center in Acapulco sustained major damage.

An image circulated on social media of major damages to the popular mall Galerías Diana in downtown Acapulco. (@SVElClarin/X)

Dozens of vehicles were stranded in floodwaters on major roads that run through Acapulco, including the seafront Miguel Alemán Avenue, according to Reforma, while the Autopista del Sol highway was closed near the La Venta tollgate due to a landslide.

Videos posted to social media showed wind howling through buildings in Acapulco, including an IMSS public hospital.

Guerrero Civil Protection Minister Roberto Arroyo Matus said early Tuesday that authorities hadn’t been able to establish contact with regional Civil Protection officials. There are dozens of small towns along and near the Guerrero coast where significant damage likely occurred.

Shelters were set up in numerous towns in Guerrero and authorities had warned residents to take measures to protect themselves. However, the rapid strengthening of the hurricane likely caught many people by surprise.

The New York Times reported that “forecasters were alarmed by the speed of Otis’s intensification.”

“… Just how much devastation it will wreak, experts say, will depend both on the storm’s force and the rapidness of emergency response,” the Times said.

The National Meteorological Service (SMN) said Wednesday morning that Otis would cause “extraordinary” rain of over 250 mm in Guerrero as well as “intense” precipitation of 75-150 mm in Michoacán and southwest México state. Heavy rain is forecast for Morelos and parts of Puebla and Oaxaca.

Meanwhile, the Federal Electricity Commission said on the X social media site that power went off for over 504,000 customers, but service had been reestablished for just under 203,000.

Acapulco was caught off guard by the pace at which the storm strengthened over only 12 hours on Tuesday. (Carlos Alberto Carbajal/Cuartoscuro)

Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado said on X that authorities were working to reestablish telephone service as soon as possible in areas where it was cut, including Acapulco and Chilpancingo, the state capital.

“From the first hours of the morning, we’ve met with representatives of the three levels of government to evaluate the damage caused by the impact of Hurricane Otis,” she said, adding that assistance was already being provided to those who need it.

With reports from Reforma, Aristegui Noticias, AP and El Universal 


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