Thursday, 7 July, 2022

Hurricane Agatha strengthens en route toward southwest Mexico

The first hurricane of the Pacific season, Agatha, was rapidly strengthening off the western coast of Mexico where it is likely to strike Monday as a Category Three storm, the country's weather service warned.

High sea temperatures and the hurricane's slow speed could give it plenty of time to strengthen before it roars ashore, Alejandra Mendez, general coordinator of Mexico's National Weather Service (SMN), said in a videoconference.

As of Sunday afternoon, Agatha had already climbed to a Category Two storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale as it churned some 295 kilometers (185 miles) west of Puerto Angel, Mexico.

"It is forecast that the hurricane will probably make landfall as a Category Three between Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, Oaxaca," said Mendez, adding that she expected landfall Monday.

Agatha was packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour, while moving north at about two kilometers per hour, according to a report by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) at 2100 GMT.

Authorities in Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas states encouraged preventative measures beginning Saturday, such as asking residents to safeguard property near coastal areas and calling on the population to take shelter. They also closed the ports of Oaxaca and Guerrero.

The popular surfing destinations of Puerto Escondido and Huatulco set up temporary shelters with a capacity to house 26,800 people and arranged for potential accommodations of another 5,200 in local hotels.

Mexico is buffeted by hurricanes on both its Pacific and Atlantic coasts, generally between the months of May and November.