ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Otis slammed into Mexico’s southern Pacific coast as a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane early Wednesday, bringing 165 mph (270 kmh) winds and heavy rain to Acapulco and surrounding towns, stirring memories of a 1997 storm that killed dozens of people.
The hurricane was predicted to rapidly lose strength in the mountainous terrain of Guerrero state. However, the projected rainfall of five to 10 inches, and potentially up to 15 inches in certain regions, increased the risk of landslides and flooding.
In just 12 hours on Tuesday, Otis quickly gained strength and transformed from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane. The people living on Guerrero’s coast hurried to get ready, but the sudden increase in intensity of the storm seemed to surprise many.
Acapulco Mayor Abelina López urged residents to either stay at home or seek refuge in the city’s shelters on Tuesday night, stating that they are currently on high alert.
López stated that Otis has the potential to be even more destructive than Hurricane Pauline, which struck Acapulco in 1997 and caused widespread devastation, resulting in over 200 fatalities. The disaster also caused numerous injuries due to flooding and mudslides.
There are approximately twenty-four small towns and villages situated along the coast between the popular tourist destinations of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo. These settlements are nestled between the mountains and the sea.
Otis arrived shortly after Hurricane Norma hit the southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula to the north.
The city of Acapulco has a population of over 1 million and is situated at the base of rugged mountains. The city’s hillsides are dotted with both upscale residences and impoverished areas, all offering scenic views of the shimmering Pacific Ocean.
Guerrero is one of Mexico’s most impoverished and violent states. Just Monday, a local police chief and 12 police officers were massacred and found on a highway in El Papayo, which is in the Guerrero township of Coyuca de Benitez not far from Otis’ impact zone.
Hurricane Tammy, which had winds of 85 mph (140 kph), was heading northeast in the Atlantic after passing through the Lesser Antilles. It was currently situated approximately 570 miles (915 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda. The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted that Tammy would transform into a strong extratropical cyclone by Thursday.
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María Verza provided coverage from Mexico City.