Hurricane Otis slammed into Mexico’s southern Pacific coast as a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane early on Wednesday, bringing 165mph (270kmh) winds and heavy rain to Acapulco and surrounding towns, and stirring memories of a 1997 storm that killed dozens of people.
Now a Category 4 storm, the hurricane is expected to continue to weaken quickly in Guerrero state’s steep mountains, but the 5in (127mm) to 10in (254mm) of rain forecast, with as much as 15in (381mm) possible in some areas, raised the threat of landslides and floods.
Otis was about 25 miles (40km) north-northwest of Acapulco with its maximum sustained winds decreasing to 130mph (215kph) and moving at 10mph (17kph). Its centre is expected to move further inland over southern Mexico through Wednesday night.
Otis had strengthened rapidly, going from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in 12 hours on Tuesday.
Residents of Guerrero’s coast scrambled to prepare, but the storm’s sudden intensity appeared to catch many off guard.
“We’re on maximum alert,” Acapulco Mayor Abelina Lopez said on Tuesday night as she urged residents to hunker down at home or move to the city’s shelters.
Otis was stronger than Hurricane Pauline that hit Acapulco in 1997, destroying swathes of the city and killing more than 200 people, Ms Lopez said. Hundreds of others were injured in flooding and mudslides.
Between the internationally known resorts of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo are two dozen small towns and villages perched between the mountains and the ocean.
Otis’s arrival came just days after Hurricane Norma struck the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula to the north.
Acapulco is a city of more than a million people at the foot of steep mountains. Luxury homes and slums alike cover the city’s hillsides with views of the glistening Pacific.
Guerrero is one of Mexico’s most impoverished and violent states.
On Monday, a local police chief and 12 officers were found massacred on a highway in El Papayo, which is in the Guerrero township of Coyuca de Benitez not far from Otis’s impact zone.
In the Atlantic, Hurricane Tammy continued moving north-eastwards over open water with winds of 85mph (140kph) after sweeping through the Lesser Antilles over the weekend.
Tammy was located about 570 miles (915km) south-southeast of Bermuda.
The storm is expected to become a powerful extratropical cyclone by Thursday, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.