Record-breaking Hurricane Agatha could morph into Alex and threaten Florida

·Senior Editor
·3 min read

Hurricane Agatha made landfall Monday in the Mexican state of Oaxaca as a Category 2 storm, making it the strongest hurricane on record to come ashore in the eastern Pacific in the month of May.

Agatha's maximum sustained winds registered 105 miles per hour as it took aim at beach towns, including the surfing destination of Puerto Escondido, before weakening to a tropical depression after making landfall. Widespread coastal flooding and power outages were reported Tuesday, and the threat of flash flooding and mudslides remains for much of southern Mexico.

Palm trees blowing in the wind before Hurricane Agatha made landfall in Huatulco, Mexico, on Monday.
Palm trees blowing in the wind before Hurricane Agatha made landfall in Huatulco, Mexico, on Monday. (Gil Obed/AFP via Getty Images)

The National Hurricane Center said Tuesday there was a 70% chance that the remnants of Agatha would reform in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, possibly taking aim at Florida as Alex, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

"Global model guidance continues to suggest that Agatha's remnants will become absorbed by a larger low-level cyclonic gyre over southeastern Mexico during the next couple of days, with that new system having development potential over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and southeastern Gulf of Mexico by late this week," the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday morning.

While it is too soon to say for sure whether Agatha's remnants will give birth to Alex and whether that storm will impact western Florida, including the city of Naples, modeling shows that could happen by next weekend.

Agatha became the first named storm of the Pacific hurricane season on Sunday, undergoing rapid intensification into a Category 2 hurricane in the course of 24 hours. The storm hit Oaxaca state Monday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (168 kph), then was quickly downgraded as it moved inland over Mexico's mountainous interior.

While linking any single storm with climate change is tricky, scientists have warned that the rapid intensification of tropical cyclones will become more common thanks to warming air and ocean temperatures.

A 2019 study published in Nature Communications found that climate change accounted for the uptick in the rapid intensification of Atlantic hurricanes between 1982 and 2009. A year later, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that tropical cyclones around the world could be expected to become stronger thanks to climate change.