OAXACA, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Barbara made landfall on a sparsely populated stretch of Mexico's southern Pacific coast Wednesday, the second-earliest landfall since reliable record-keeping began in 1966. At least two people were killed, including a man identified by local officials as a U.S. surfer.
The director of civil defense for Oaxaca state, Manuel Maza Sanchez, said a 61-year-old man from Colorado died while surfing at Playa Azul, a beach near the resort town of Puerto Escondido, as Barbara made landfall about 120 miles (200 kilometers) to the east. He said the man was dragged out by waves kicked up by Barbara and then battered against the shore.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City was not immediately able to confirm the man's name, nationality or hometown.
Maza Sanchez also said a 26-year-old Mexican man drowned in the nearby city of Pinotepa Nacional while trying to cross a rain-swollen creek.
Farther to the east, near the landfall area, 14 fishermen who set out to sea Wednesday morning in the town of Tapanatepec, Oaxaca, had been reported missing, Maza said.
Barbara made landfall at midafternoon with winds of about 75 mph (120 kph) and headed inland, where it was expected to weaken quickly.
On May 23, the National Hurricane Center had said odds favor a below-normal hurricane season in the eastern Pacific for 2013. It said 11 to 16 named storms were likely, below the 15-storm annual average for 1981-2010.
But Barbara appeared to start the Pacific season unusually early, and it also made landfall farther east than any other Pacific hurricane since 1966. Such storms often form closer to the resort of Acapulco, to the west.
The hurricane was moving roughly north over land at about 9 mph (15 kph) over sparsely populated terrain, but flooding was reported in some areas and could remain a threat even after the storm weakened.
Officials in Oaxaca had rushed to prepare emergency shelters and suspended school for children in coastal communities as rain began lashing the coast when the storm formed close to shore.
The area first hit by the storm is a largely undeveloped stretch of coastal lagoons, punctuated by small fishing villages.
The major Gulf oil port of Coatzacoalcos is located on the other side of the narrow waist of Mexico known as the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. But the hurricane center said the storm should weaken rapidly once it hit land, well before reaching Coatzacoalcos.
Maza Sanchez said ports had been closed to navigation in tourist resorts of Puerto Angel, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, all located more than 120 miles (200 kilometers) to the west.
He said classes would be suspended at schools along the coast for the rest of the week. Storm shelters were being set up in 20 towns and hamlets. Such shelters are frequently installed at local schools.