(StraightNews.org) – Mexican authorities say more than two dozen people died as Hurricane Otis devastated the country’s Pacific coast. Tens of thousands of residents in the Acapulco region were left without power and water, and local crops were destroyed, leaving small farmers with an uncertain future.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters that 27 people died and four remained unaccounted for as the enormity of the hurricane’s impact became clear. The President said restoring power was his top priority, and he praised people for shielding themselves from the impact. “The people sheltered, protected themselves and that’s why fortunately there weren’t more tragedies, loss of human life,” he said.
Described as a “category five nightmare,” Hurricane Otis strengthened from a tropical storm in hours, becoming the most ferocious hurricane to hit the Acapulco area on record. Acapulco is home to roughly 800,000 people, all of whom were caught by surprise as the storm gathered pace.
Otis hit the Mexican coast at 165 mph on the early morning of October 25, knocking out communications systems that emergency services relied on. President López Obrador said first responders were also impeded by landslides that blocked off major roads and communications failures that meant the wider country could not connect with Acapulco.
The unusually rapid intensification of the storm just before hitting land concerns scientists, some of whom say it is likely attributable to climate change. “Rapid intensification” is a term used to describe a storm that experiences a wind speed increase of at least 35 mph within 24 hours. Scientists say such a fast increase requires “significant ocean heat.”
Brian McNoldy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Miami, said Hurricane Otis “took full advantage of a warm patch of ocean,” with temperatures of around 88 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures are high enough to increase wind speeds significantly, McNoldy said. “It’s unfortunate it happened right before making landfall, but if this had occurred over the open ocean, it still would have been remarkable,” he added.
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