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Hurricane in Mexico: Is Hurricane Agatha threat to the US?

With the first named storm of the eastern Pacific season bearing down on the Mexican coast, we look at the likelihood of danger to the US Gulf coast

Jeffrey May
With the first named storm of the eastern Pacific season bearing down on the Mexican coast, we look at the likelihood of danger to the US Gulf coast

The first named storm of the Pacific season has strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane and is expected to make landfall in southern Mexico on Monday, bringing with it an “extremely dangerous storm surge and life-threatening winds”, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It has been steadily moving north along the coast, pounding Chiapas with heavy rains, and is expected to drop between 300 and 400 millimetres (11.8 to 15.7 inches) of rain onto neighboring Oaxaca state. Flash flooding and landslides are a serious threat to life in this mountainous region.

Agatha is expected to weaken over the next 48 hours, with the western coast of Mexico depriving it of the water that it needs on the eastern edge of the cyclone, but the fear is that it will still have leftover energy once it crosses the narrow isthmus of Oaxaca-Veracruz and enters the Bay of Campeche, with enough latent power that it can redevelop and threaten the Gulf coast of the United States.

Meterologist Craig Setzer says that it is currently “way too early to tell what, if anything,” Hurricane Agatha means for the U.S. “Right now we’re just going to be watching.”

AccuWeather reported that once in the Bay of Campeche, “there is a chance it could redevelop into the Atlantic basin’s first named storm.

Federal forecasters expect another busy hurricane season in 2022, with as many as ten hurricanes forming from an expected twenty-one named storms in the Atlantic.

Hurricane Agatha could be on the way to the United States
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The first tropical storm of the season, Alex, is headed towards South Florida. When did NOAA start naming storms and why?JOSE DE JESUS CORTESREUTERS

Hurricane season is traditionally held to run from the beginning of June to the end of November for the Atlantic Ocean.

As of 7 a.m. ET Monday, Agatha was about 176 miles southeast of Acapulco, Mexico, and 70 miles directly offshore El Azufre, with a hurricane alert in place all along the Oaxaca coast. It is reported to be moving in a northeasterly direction at 6 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

President Joe Biden, in a press conference earlier this month in Maryland, said that “We know hurricanes are coming our way. They grow more extreme every season thus far. Given the climate crisis ... we expect another tough hurricane season. Storms are going to be more intense, and we’re going to have shorter notice, as we saw last year with Hurricane Ida.”

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana in August 2021, leading to the deaths of 90 people across eight states, with additional later fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning.

An extended La Niña season has pushed the expected arrival of the El Niño event further back into the latter part of the 2022 season, perhaps offering a glimmer of hope for the ferocity that can be expected out of the early season hurricanes in the eastern US.