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Hurricane Otis Causes Catastrophic Damage in Acapulco, Mexico

November 2, 2023
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On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Hurricane Otis made landfall near Acapulco, on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, at 1:25 a.m. CDT as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 165 mph. The storm had rapidly intensified off the coast, and according to the National Hurricane Center, Otis was the strongest hurricane in the Eastern Pacific to make landfall in the satellite era

Because the storm intensified so quickly, with wind speeds increasing by 115 mph within 24 hours, the more than one million people living in and around the city had very little time to prepare for the monster storm ahead of landfall. Only one other storm on record, Hurricane Patricia in 2015, exceeded Otis’ rapid intensification in the Eastern Pacific, with a 120-mph increase in 24 hours.

Reports and images from Acapulco showed catastrophic damage to structures, including many hotels and high-rise buildings, as well as downed trees, severe flooding, and mudslides. Damage was also reported at 120 hospitals and clinics. Additionally, more than 10,000 utility poles were destroyed, knocking out power and internet/communications across the region, while numerous transmission lines, electrical substations, and a power plant were also heavily damaged. In a news release posted on Oct. 31, government officials announced the current number of deaths as 46 and noted that 58 people were still missing. 

When Otis first hit, mudslides outside the city in mountainous terrain prevented crews from traveling to the city to provide aid, and according to the Associated Press, the 10,000 troops that were deployed to the area lacked the tools needed to clear mud and downed trees off roads. Acapulco’s commercial and military airports were also badly damaged, but a notice from the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico on Oct. 28 stated that limited flights are now available from Acapulco International Airport (ACA) to Mexico City. 

Recovery operations are continuing as crews have been working to make repairs. The Mexican Red Cross is now in the process of delivering 75 tons of humanitarian aid to those who have been affected by the disaster, and more than 1,600 people remain in shelters in both Acapulco and Coyuca de Benítez.

NOAA satellites will continue monitoring the weather, including watching for tropical cyclone activity, 24/7. They provide vital information for forecasting hurricanes and monitoring the location, movement and intensity of storms. The GOES-16 (GOES East) and GOES-18 (GOES West) geostationary satellites continuously view the entire Atlantic and eastern/central Pacific hurricane basins to provide real-time tracking and monitoring of tropical cyclones as well as the environmental conditions that cause them to form. 

By imaging a storm as often as every 30 seconds, these satellites help forecasters more easily discern the movement of cloud features and provide greater confidence in estimating the center of the storm. GOES-16 and GOES-18 also provide a detailed look at the storm properties of a hurricane, including cloud top cooling, central pressure, and convective structures as well as specific features of a hurricane’s eye, wind estimates, and lightning activity. This information is critical to estimating a storm’s intensity.

The Joint Polar Satellite System’s (JPSS) polar-orbiting satellites, Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20, capture data over each spot on Earth twice a day. They measure the state of the atmosphere by taking precise measurements of sea surface temperatures and atmospheric temperature and moisture.

Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center for the latest information on tropical storm and hurricane activity and follow the storms’ paths using NOAA’s Live Hurricane Tracker.