Hurricane Otis reached an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 status as it approached the Pacific coast of Mexico, heading towards Acapulco on Wednesday. The US National Hurricane Center issued a warning that Otis had the potential to escalate into a “potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane” as it approached the well-visited beach resort.
The hurricane is forecasted to bring up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) in some regions, raising concerns of flashfloods, mudslides and a “life-threatening” storm surge in Guerrero’s mountainous regions, the center said.
How have authorities responded?
Otis was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) south-southeast of Acapulco and moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).
A hurricane warning was in effect for the coastline from Punta Maldonado to Zihuatanejo.
Acapulco’s port was shut down by authorities, and over 8,000 troops were deployed for rescue operations. The Guerrero state government said it was also preparing 396 shelters. Schools in Guerrero have been closed as a precaution.
“We won’t be running any tours today,” Acapulco tourist boat operator Carolina Torres said. “If it hits us, that’s very serious for us.”
The storm was expected to weaken by Thursday, according to the US National Hurricane Center.
Climate change intensifying storms
Every year, Mexico faces hurricanes on both its Pacific and Atlantic shores, typically from May to November.
Just this week, Tropical Storm Norma claimed three lives in Mexico, while earlier in the month, the Category 4 Hurricane Lidia resulted in two deaths.
Meanwhile, in the Atlantic, Hurricane Tammy moves northeast with winds of 75 mph.
Scientists warn that with climate change, storms and other extreme weather events are growing in intensity.