Bands of rain and gusty winds battered the southern Pacific coast of Mexico on Monday as the first hurricane of the eastern Pacific season made slow progress toward a stretch of tourist beaches and fishing villages.
Ominous gray skies and blowing sand beaches cleaned up the popular destinations of Puerto Escondido and Huatulco.
National emergency officials said they had assembled a task force of more than 9,300 people for the region and more than 200 shelters had been opened as forecasters warned of dangerous storm surge and flooding from severe heavy rains.
After forming on Sunday, Agatha quickly gained strength, and was expected to make landfall as a powerful Category 2 hurricane Monday afternoon or evening, the US National Hurricane Center said. United.
Late Monday morning, Agatha picked up the speed slightly as she headed toward the area near Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel in the southern state of Oaxaca. The region 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.”
Agatha had maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h) – just 1 mph below the Category 3 threshold, the hurricane center said. The center of the storm was about 80 kilometers southwest of Puerto Angel and was tracking northeast at 13 km/h.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm is expected to drop 10 to 16 inches (250 to 400 millimeters) of rain over parts of Oaxaca, with isolated highs of 20 inches (500 millimeters), posing the threat flash floods and mudslides.
According to the hurricane center, few changes in strength were expected before the storm made landfall. A hurricane warning was in effect between the Port of Salina Cruz and the Lagunas de Chacahua.
In Huatulco, city officials have canceled schools and ordered the “absolute closure” of all beaches and its seven bays, many of which are only accessible by boat.
To the west, in Zipolite, long known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe, hotel workers were gathering outdoor furniture and installing storm shutters.
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.