If Hurricane Agatha doesn’t weaken, it will be the strongest known hurricane to hit North America in May. Its only competition comes from a hurricane that hit the Florida Panhandle in 1863 with winds roughly estimated at 105 mph.
Agatha, the first named system of the Pacific hurricane season, is on final approach to Oaxaca state in southern Mexico with violent winds and crushing storm surge in the coastal sections. The storm will also produce mudslide-causing torrential rain across the mountainous state and the surrounding states as well.
Agatha’s circulation is forecast to dissipate over the mountains by late Tuesday.
Fragments of Agatha will likely cross the mountains into the extreme southern Gulf of Mexico and mix into a stew of disturbed weather that extends across the Yucatán Peninsula into the Caribbean. By midweek, the consensus of the computer forecast models is that a broad area of low pressure will straddle the Yucatán. The question becomes, where, if anywhere, will an organized system emerge?
It appears that the general steering flow that would capture a new low-pressure system would push it toward Florida. If the system emerges out of the Caribbean part of the disturbance, it would more likely affect South Florida. If something comes out of the Gulf end of the broad circulation, it would more likely affect Central Florida, although the moisture would likely impact the entire southern peninsula as well.
The atmospheric pattern over the Gulf is not forecast to be conducive to a fast-developing tropical system, so a hurricane does not appear to be in the cards at this time. In fact, what develops, if it does, might be more of a comma-shaped quasi-tropical rainstorm with gusty winds. It’s simply too soon to know, and nothing should be ruled out.
South Florida is already saturated from rounds of heavy rain, and the rainy season is barely underway. If another big rainmaker comes along, flooding will be a concern.
The consensus is that Florida will feel the effects of the system, whatever form it takes, very late in the week or over the weekend.
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Key messages from NHC about Hurricane Agatha
- Extremely dangerous coastal flooding from storm surge, accompanied by large and destructive waves, is expected near and the east of where Agatha makes landfall.
- Life-threatening hurricane-force winds are expected in portions of the hurricane warning area in Oaxaca, Mexico, starting midday and continuing through this evening. Tropical storm conditions have already begun along the coast of Oaxaca and will spread eastward within the warning area through today and tonight.
- Heavy rains associated with Agatha will continue over portions of southern Mexico through Tuesday. This will pose a threat of potentially life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides.