RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Before the sun came up Wednesday, Acapulco, Mexico, went through the wrath of the first Category 5 hurricane to ever make landfall in Mexico.
Catastrophic devastation could be seen across the beach resort town that is home to around 1 million people.
Hurricane Otis became the strongest storm (maximum sustained winds of 165 MPH at landfall) to hit Mexico from either the Pacific or Atlantic in recorded history.
The worst part for residents was that they had virtually no warning. Forecast computer models handled the storm horribly, and unfortunately so did the hurricane specialists at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
On Monday night, just over 24 hours from landfall in Acapulco, the NHC forecasted Otis’ landfall strength at 70 mph, a strong tropical storm.
Fast forward 24 hours to Tuesday at 11 p.m., Otis strengthened into a Category 5 Hurricane with winds of 160 mph. The NHC called it a “nightmare scenario for southern Mexico”.
The obvious question is why was the forecast so bad? There are likely a variety of factors that played into all computer model guidance completely missing Otis’ rapid intensification, and it could be some time before researchers can give a clear answer.
What we do know is that ocean temperatures, fuel for tropical systems, are still very warm (85+°F) in the area of the Pacific Ocean where Otis’s intensity exploded.
That certainly played a role in some form, especially considering those waters are historically not that warm this late in the hurricane season.
Meanwhile, back in the Atlantic, we only have two more names on the 2023 Atlantic storm list, and the season is not over yet.
Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.