“A dire scenario is unfolding for southern Mexico,” the National Hurricane Center wrote in a bulletin Tuesday evening.
Otis had peak winds of 90 mph at 12 p.m. Tuesday. Fastest intensity observed According to Bill Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, satellite tracking of hurricanes in the northeast Pacific began in 1966. By morning, Otis was a tropical storm with winds of 70 miles per hour. By evening, it was a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 160 mph.
“This is a very serious situation for the Acapulco metropolitan area, with a potentially damaging tornado approaching or over the major city early Wednesday morning,” the hurricane center wrote.
It warned that as the hurricane barreled ashore, it would create “catastrophic damage” near its center, a “life-threatening” storm surge or sudden rise in sea level and catastrophic winds that could cause hurricane-like damage.
During Category 5 winds, “a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse,” the hurricane center writes. “Falled trees and power poles can isolate residential areas. Power outages can last weeks to months. Most areas will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5 Types of Hurricanes, Explained
Rainfall from the storm is expected to range from 8 to 16 inches, with local amounts of up to 20 inches expected through Friday. “This rainfall will produce flash and urban flooding, and mudslides in overland areas,” the hurricane center wrote.
Scientists say the extreme intensity of storms like Otis, fueled by unusually warm ocean waters, is more likely due to human-caused climate change. This week, a study described a rapid increase in intensity in Atlantic storms over the past several decades.
“The increased likelihood of hurricanes changing from weak storms to major hurricanes in 24 hours or less is significant,” study author Andrea Garner told The Washington Post.
Hurricane warnings extend from Punta Maldonado north to Zihuantanejo in Guerrero state, the southernmost part of Mexico’s west coast; This warning zone covers Acapulco. in the area No experience with strong hurricanes like Otis and has been affected by only significantly weaker storms since records were kept.
“No hurricane even close to this intensity has been recorded for this part of Mexico,” the hurricane center wrote.
This is uncharted territory #Acapulco A big storm is approaching. The last cyclone approaching from the south #Otis An unnamed Category 1 in 1951. No other major hurricane has threatened this area in recorded history. Pauline ’97 The wind blew out to sea pic.twitter.com/EK6q3QveHw
— Bill Karins 💧 (@BillKarins) October 24, 2023
Rapidly intensifying storms like Otis are more difficult to prepare for, as they leave little time to warn residents and mobilize resources for emergency management.
Meteorologists often describe poorly predicted, rapidly intensifying storms like Otis as a worst-case scenario, especially when they lead to immediate landfall.
On X, earlier on Twitter, meteorologists said they were shocked by Otis’ sudden strengthening, which computer models failed to predict.
“This is a catastrophic failure of modeling. It leads to an extremely poor forecast outcome for the Acapulco region,” Posted by Matt LanzaRuns Eyewall, a hurricane commentary website.
Although forecasts of hurricane strength have improved significantly in recent years, predicting rapid intensity remains a major challenge — especially for small storms like Otis, which are more prone to sudden changes in their environment.
Otis drew comparisons to Patricia in 2015, which rapidly intensified along the west coast of Mexico and became the most intense hurricane on record in the Northeast Pacific. However, the storm weakened some before making landfall.
Otis is set to become the fourth tropical storm or hurricane to hit the west coast of Mexico this month, following Lydia, Max and Norma.