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After Stunning Intensification, Hurricane Otis Hits Acapulco as Category 5 Storm

The most powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in Mexico sparks warnings of catastrophic flooding and mudslides.

People stand on the beach after Hurricane Otis's arrival alert in Acapulco, Guerrero state, Mexico, on October 24, 2023.

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.

“This is your planet on carbon,” longtime climate advocate Bill McKibben wrote late Tuesday.

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.”

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