Hurricane Agatha, the first of the season, heads towards a stretch of tourist beaches and fishing villages on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast on Monday amid warnings of dangerous storm surges and flooding due to heavy rains.
After forming on Sunday, Agatha quickly gained strength, and was expected to make landfall as a powerful Category 3 hurricane Monday afternoon or evening, the US National Hurricane Center said. United.
It was moving to the area near Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel in the southern state of Oaxaca – an area that includes the laid-back tourist resorts of Huatulco, Mazunte and Zipolite.
The hurricane center said Agatha could “bring extremely dangerous storm surge and deadly winds.”
Late Sunday, Agatha had maximum sustained winds of 175 km/h – just below the threshold for a Category 3, the hurricane center said. The center of the storm was about 225 kilometers southwest of Puerto Angel and was tracking northeast at 9 kph.
A hurricane warning was in effect between the Port of Salina Cruz and the Lagunas de Chacahua.
The Oaxaca Civil Defense office said the hurricane’s outer bands were already hitting the coast on Sunday. The office released photos of fishermen hoisting their boats onto the beaches to protect them from the storm.
The #CEPCO, informed: El huracán Agatha categoría 2 (Altamente destructivo) is located 295 km southwest of Puerto Ángel, Oax. With impacto imminent el día de mañana in the costa oaxaqueña. The satellite image is observed the well-defined and weary ojo…@alejandromurat pic.twitter.com/RGrvikjjm1
Beaches, closed schools
Municipal authorities in Huatulco have ordered the “absolute closure” of all beaches in the resort town and its famous “seven bays”, many of which are only accessible by boat. They also closed local schools and began setting up emergency storm shelters.
To the east, in Zipolite, long known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe, staff at the small Casa Kalmar hotel have gathered outdoor furniture and installed wooden storm shutters to keep out strong winds blowing windows and glass doors.
“The biggest worry here is the wind,” said hotel manager Silvia Ranfagni.
With just one guest — and numerous cancellations due to the hurricane — Ranfagni planned to take Agatha out to the property, which is three or four blocks from the beach.
“I’m going to lock myself in here with my animals,” she said, referring to her dog and her cats.
The government’s Mexican Turtle Center – a former slaughterhouse turned conservation center in Mazunte – announced it was closed to visitors until further notice due to the hurricane.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm is expected to drop 250 to 400 millimeters of rain over parts of Oaxaca, with isolated highs of 500 millimeters, posing the threat of flash flooding and mudslides.