Hurricane Otis Unleashes "Nightmare Scenario" On Acapulco
Hurricane Otis unleashes "nightmare scenario" on Acapulco. Hurricane Otis, a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions, struck the picturesque shores of Acapulco in southern Mexico with little warning, leaving officials and residents grappling with a "nightmare scenario."
Rapidly intensifying from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just 12 hours before making landfall, Otis became the strongest storm on record to hit this region and the Pacific coast of Mexico.
The swift transformation of Otis into a Category 5 hurricane caught both residents and authorities off guard.
Acapulco, a popular tourist destination and home to around 800,000 people, had scant time to prepare and seek refuge as the tempest bore down upon them.
As Otis continued to strengthen while approaching the coast, the National Hurricane Center sounded an alarm.
There are no hurricanes on record even close to this intensity for this part of Mexico.- National Hurricane Center
This raises concerns about the impact of climate change because studies have shown that the warming of the oceans brought about by human-induced climate change is causing tropical storms to intensify more frequently, especially as they approach landfall.
Otis made landfall in Mexico near Acapulco at approximately 12:25 a.m. local time with sustained winds of 165 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Within a few hours, the storm's maximum sustained winds had reduced to 110 mph, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 30 miles from Otis' center. The hurricane was situated about 60 miles north-northwest of Acapulco as of 8 a.m.
The forecast predicts that Otis will rapidly weaken as it moves further inland and traverses southern Mexico's mountainous terrain, likely dissipating by Wednesday night.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador implored coastal residents of the state of Guerrero, which includes Acapulco, to seek shelter and stay away from rivers, streams, and ravines ahead of the storm’s landfall.
Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado Pineda also announced the opening of temporary shelters in Tecpan de Galeana, Coyuca de Benítez, and Acapulco.
A hurricane warning is in effect for coastal Punta Maldonado westward to Zihuatanejo. The hurricane center has warned that the winds near Otis’ core are "extremely destructive."
High-rise buildings, in particular, face a greater risk of severe winds than structures closer to ground level. Otis is also expected to generate a storm surge that will whip up "large and destructive waves," potentially causing life-threatening coastal flooding around the area of landfall.
In addition to high winds, Otis is anticipated to bring heavy rainfall, with 8 to 16 inches of rain expected through the end of the week, and some areas could see up to 20 inches of rain.
This heavy precipitation could lead to flash floods and urban flooding, as well as mudslides in higher terrain areas, the hurricane center has warned.
Notably, Otis had been rapidly intensifying throughout Tuesday, gaining 90 mph in a 12-hour period.
According to Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University, this made Otis the fastest intensifying hurricane over a 12-hour period in Eastern Pacific history.
Rapid intensification for hurricanes generally implies that the storm's maximum sustained winds increased by at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less.
Otis exceeded this criterion by gaining roughly 115 mph in the 24-hour span from early Tuesday to early Wednesday.
Before Otis, the East Pacific had never witnessed a Category 5 hurricane landfall, according to the NOAA Hurricane Database. The previous strongest landfall was Hurricane Patricia in 2015, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph.
Unlike Otis, which hit near a major urban area, Patricia passed through sparsely populated and mountainous terrain, sparing Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
Although Patricia struck the coast as a Category 4 storm, it swiftly weakened and left a narrow path of severe damage in its wake, with two reported deaths directly attributable to the storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As the people of Acapulco and the surrounding regions grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Otis, it serves as a stark reminder of the unpredictable and destructive nature of climate change-driven weather events.
The rapid and unprecedented intensification of Hurricane Otis into a Category 5 storm, which struck Acapulco and the Pacific coast of Mexico, has left a lasting impact on the region.
The storm's devastating power and the short amount of time available for preparation highlight the challenges that climate change and its impact on the frequency and intensity of tropical storms pose.
The records broken by Otis, both in its swift intensification and its unprecedented Category 5 landfall in the East Pacific, serve as a sobering reminder of the urgent need for climate action and enhanced disaster preparedness in the face of such "nightmare scenarios."