Tropical Storm Agatha, the first named storm to hit the eastern Pacific this year, is hurtling toward the Mexican coast and has the potential to become a hurricane, causing life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday.
Agatha could make landfall Monday as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour, Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesperson for the Hurricane Center, said Saturday.
Agatha was on her way to the largely rural Mexican state of Oaxaca and was said to disappear Wednesday morning. A hurricane watch was placed off the southern coast of Mexico, from Salina Cruz to Punta Maldonado.
Mr. Feltgen said storms that originate in the eastern Pacific generally do not reach the United States as hurricanes. The same goes for Agatha, he said, though he added that if the storm “survives its passage through Mexico, its remains could surface in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Agatha formed off the Mexican coast and was called on Saturdaynot long after the official start of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season, which runs from May 15 to November 30.
The Atlantic hurricane season — the term used for storms that form in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean — runs from June 1 to November 30. Those regions are responsible for the worst hurricanes to hit the United States. said Feltgen.
This year is on track to be the first time since 2014 that no hurricane has formed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season. However, the season generally doesn’t peak until mid-August through the end of October, and forecasters predict above-average Atlantic activity this year, with six to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this week.
If the forecast comes true, this year will be the seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season.
The causes for the predicted intensity of hurricanes listed by NOAA include the climate pattern known as La Niña, which affects wind speed and direction, and a particularly intense West African monsoon season, which produces waves that can lead to powerful and prolonged hurricanes.