Agatha eyes Mexico landfall after becoming season's first hurricane

·3 min read
Agatha eyes Mexico landfall after becoming season's first hurricane
Agatha eyes Mexico landfall after becoming season's first hurricane

The eastern Pacific has its first hurricane of the season, with Agatha becoming a Category 1 storm Sunday. It isn't expected to go any higher than that category with a landfall anticipated on Monday. However, it is still a dangerous storm, expected to unleash extreme amounts of heavy rainfall that may lead to life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides. As well, there’s a risk the storm could redevelop in the Gulf of Mexico this week.

DON’T MISS: Above-average Atlantic hurricane season predicted for seventh year in a row

AGATHA QUICKLY STRENGTHENS TO HURRICANE, SET TO LANDFALL IN MEXICO

Agatha is now a Category 1 hurricane after gathering strength in a hurry amid warm waters and favourable winds.

Sunday's 7 a.m. CDT advisory from the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) found Agatha’s maximum sustained winds had increased to near 120 km/h with higher gusts. Forecasters expect the storm to continue strengthening until it makes landfall on Monday.

"On the forecast track, the centre of Agatha will approach the southern coast of Mexico later today and make landfall there on Monday," the NHC said.

AGATHATRACK
AGATHATRACK

The latest forecast calls for Agatha to make landfall along the Oaxaca coast early Monday afternoon, though winds and rain will far precede the centre of the storm officially making landfall.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the Oaxacan coast ahead of Agatha’s anticipated landfall, from Salina Cruz to Lagunas de Chacahua. A hurricane watch is in effect from Salina Cruz eastward to Barra De Tonala, and a tropical storm warning is in place from Salina Cruz eastward to Boca de Pijijiapan and Lagunas de Chacahua westward to Punta Maldonado.

AGATHARAIN
AGATHARAIN

The storm’s robust moisture and rough terrain of southern Mexico will combine to produce prolific rainfall through mid-week as the storm makes landfall and slowly pushes inland.

Widespread rainfall totals of 200-300 mm are expected along the path of the storm, with higher totals possible in some areas. Oaxaca could see as much as 400+ mm of rain, with isolated totals as high as 500 mm. Such heavy rain will lead to life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides in the affected areas.

As well, the storm surge is expected to produce dangerous coastal flooding in areas of onshore winds near and to the east of where the centre of Agatha makes landfall. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.

CLOSELY WATCHING THE GULF THIS WEEK

The system’s effects might not stop in southern Mexico.

TROPICS
TROPICS

Agatha’s remnants will slowly push inland and may re-emerge over the far southern Gulf of Mexico by the middle of this week. By then, atmospheric conditions may be favourable for the system to develop into a new system in the Gulf of Mexico.

The NHC gives this region a 30 per cent potential for tropical development by mid-week. Forecasters will closely monitor this potential development.

If a system forms in the Gulf, it would be the Atlantic basin’s first system of the 2022 hurricane season, which officially begins on June 1.

LA NIÑA MAY SUPPRESS PACIFIC ACTIVITY AS IT BOOSTS ATLANTIC SEASON

La Niña, a cooling of sea surface temperatures in parts of the eastern Pacific Ocean, has a significant impact on hurricane activity in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

This pattern tends to suppress hurricane activity in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean as cooler waters and increased wind shear are unfavourable for tropical development. Accordingly, NOAA’s official forecast calls for decent odds of below-normal tropical cyclone activity in the central Pacific.

image (5)
image (5)

While the outlook doesn't cover the eastern Pacific specifically, one can expect to see a similar pattern here because of its close proximity to the region. The hurricane season for the eastern Pacific Ocean began on May 15, and runs until November 30.

On the flip side, forecasters expect warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures and relatively calm wind shear to contribute to another above-average Atlantic hurricane season for the seventh year in a row.

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