Hurricane Otis made landfall near Acapulco, Mexico as a powerful Category 5 storm early Wednesday after intensifying from a tropical storm in a matter of hours, stunning forecasters who described the turn of events as a “nightmare scenario.”
While Otis weakened to a Category 4 hurricane shortly after slamming into southern Mexico and is expected to diminish further as it moves over mountainous terrain, the storm brought devastating sustained winds of 165 mph and heavy rainfall, sparking warnings of catastrophic flooding and mudslides.
More than 1 million people live in Acapulco. Until late Tuesday, the city’s residents and others in harm’s way expected Otis to make landfall as a tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane.
“This is pretty much a worst-case scenario, as residents have little time to find a safe shelter and protect life and property from this life-threatening storm,” weather researcher Colin McCarthy wrote on social media.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC), Otis “explosively intensified” by 95 knots — roughly 110 mph — in 24 hours, “a mark only exceeded in modern times by Hurricane Patricia in 2015.” Meteorologists said the storm’s path over very warm waters off the Mexican coast likely contributed to its rapid intensification.
Otis is the most powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in Mexico. The storm’s arrival in Mexico also marks the first time on record that an Eastern Pacific hurricane has made landfall as a Category 5.
“There are no hurricanes on record even close to this intensity for this part of Mexico,” said the NHC, which noted on social media Wednesday morning that “heavy rainfall and flash flooding” were hammering portions of southern Mexico.
Video footage and photos posted to social media showed some of the early impacts of the storm.
The government of Mexico’s Guerrero state, which is home to Acapulco, “said it was preparing 396 shelters in anticipation of families being driven from their homes by wind damage or surging waters,” The Guardian reported Wednesday.
“Mexico’s army and navy deployed more than 8,000 troops to the area with specialized equipment to aid in rescues. Authorities closed Acapulco’s port, home to about 300 fishing boats,” the outlet added.
As observers warned that the storm could inflict massive damage even as it weakens, The Washington Post observed that a Guerrero state news outlet “reported early Wednesday that intense rains and winds were causing flooding on the coast of Acapulco and had destroyed the facade of a large mall.”
We need your help to propel Truthout into the new year
As we look toward the new year, we’re well aware of the obstacles that lie in the path to justice. But here at Truthout, we are encouraged and emboldened by the courage of people worldwide working to move us all forward — people like you.
If you haven’t yet made your end-of-year donation to support our work, this is the perfect moment to do so: Our year-end fundraising drive is happening now, and we must raise $150,000 by the end of December.
Will you stand up for truly independent, honest journalism by making a contribution in the amount that’s right for you? It only takes a few seconds to donate by card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, or Venmo — we even accept donations of cryptocurrency and stock! Just click the red button below.