By JOSÉ MARÍA ÁLVAREZ from the Associated Press
SAN ISIDRO DEL PALMAR, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season, making landfall on a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico.
The storm hit Oaxaca state Monday afternoon as a strong Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165kph), 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 (45 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm should dissipate by the evening, but warned that the system’s heavy rains still posed a threat of dangerous floods for Mexico’s southern states.
Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat told local media that the state’s emergency services office had 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 that flows through town.
Residents waded through neck-deep water to salvage what items they could from their homes, walking gingerly with piles of clothing atop their heads and religious figures in their arms.
Argeo Aquino, who had 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 big waves lashed the beach town of Zipolite Monday, long known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe.
“There is a lot of rain and sudden gusts of strong wind,” said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel in Zipolite. Ranfagni, who decided to ride out Agatha at the property, said as the storm approached, “You can hear the wind howling.”
Agatha formed on Sunday and quickly gained power. It was the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in May in the eastern Pacific, said Jeff Masters, meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections and the founder of Weather Underground.