Hurricane Agatha sets May record, then weakens over Mexico

The strong Category 2 hurricane hit Mexico’s Oaxaca state Monday afternoon

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NOAA via AP

This satellite image shows Hurricane Agatha off the Pacific coast of Oaxaca state, Mexico on Monday.

JOSÉ MARÍA ÁLVAREZ , Associated Press

SAN ISIDRO DEL PALMAR, Mexico — Hurricane Agatha made history Tuesday as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season. 

Agatha formed on Sunday and quickly gained power; it ripped off roofs and washed out roads before fading in southern Mexico.

The storm hit Oaxaca state Monday afternoon as a strong Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, then quickly lost power as it moved inland over the mountainous interior.

Remnants of Agatha were moving northeast Tuesday into Veracruz state, with sustained winds down to 30 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm should dissipate by the evening, but warned the system’s heavy rains still posed a threat of dangerous floods for Mexico’s southern states.

Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat told local media the state’s emergency services office had received no reports of deaths. Several municipalities near the coast remained without power Tuesday and mudslides blocked a number of the state’s highways.

San Isidro del Palmar, only a couple miles inland from the coast, was swamped by the Tonameca River flowing through town.

Residents waded through neck-deep water to salvage what items they could from their homes and walked gingerly with piles of clothing atop their heads and religious figures in their arms.

Argeo Aquino, who has lived in the town his whole life, could recall only two other occasions when he saw such flooding.

“The houses are totally flooded, so they are getting everything out,” Aquino said Monday as he watched his neighbors. “There are stores, houses. More than anything else, we have to try to save all the good material, because everything else is going to be washed away.”

The Tonameca’s brown waters reached the windows of parked cars and the minibuses used for local transportation.

Nearby, heavy rain and high winds lashed the beach town of Zipolite, known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe. 

“The sound of the wind was really loud, high-pitched,” said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel in Zipolite. “It started at 1 p.m. when the telephone coverage went out and it didn’t calm down until 7:30.

“A lot of trees were down, roads washed out. A lot of metal and thatched roofs were blown off.”

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