There were no immediate reports of deaths — but there was no communication from the areas that were hit hardest. Telephone and internet service was cut, and major roads were flooded or covered by landslides. “We just don’t know,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told journalists hours after the storm made landfall at 1:25 a.m. local time.
Otis plunged beachside hotel rooms in Acapulco into darkness. Guests threw mattresses over shattered windows and scrambled into bathrooms to protect themselves, videos shared on social media showed.
Streets in the city of 1 million disappeared under heavy rains. Cars and shopping carts floated down the avenues. The wind whipped the face off a shopping mall. People on the upper floors of apartment buildings pleaded for help escaping.
“The devastation that we are seeing this morning … is horrific,” journalist Víctor Olivares wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Michelle Rivera, a radio journalist, posted videos of palm trees swaying violently in wind and rain. In a video she said was recorded in an Acapulco hospital, people clutched bedclothes as high winds blew through a corridor.
As recently as Monday, Otis was expected to be a run-of-the-mill tropical storm. But on Tuesday, it intensified faster than any eastern Pacific storm on record. Peak winds increased by 115 mph in 24 hours; it barreled into Acapulco as what the U.S. National Hurricane Center warned was a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5.
Rapidly intensifying hurricanes are notoriously difficult to predict, but meteorologists tweeted that the forecast for Otis was “an almost incomprehensible miss” and “a fail of epic proportions. ” Hurricane warnings weren’t issued for Southern Mexico’s western coast until 2 a.m. local time Tuesday, about 24 hours before landfall . Even then, the forecast was for only a Category 1.
Some climate scientists have warned that the extreme rapid intensification of hurricanes, made more likely by the effects of human-caused climate change and warming oceans, will lead to more unpredictable storms.
As Otis approached on Tuesday, authorities in Guerrero state scrambled to open shelters. The army and navy deployed troops to aid residents in damaged buildings.
More than 504,000 customers lost power. Mexico’s state-run electricity utility put its workers on “warrior status” and restored service to nearly half of them before noon Wednesday.
Of special concern was the 140-mile stretch of coastal villages that stretches from Acapulco to the beach resort of Zihuatanejo, López Obrador said. The area was two weeks ago by Tropical Storm Max and was in no position to absorb more rainfall.
One of the towns hit hard by Wednesday’s hurricane, Coyuca de Benitez, was reeling from the massacre of a dozen police officers and a local security chief less than 48 hours earlier. They were presumably killed by one of the several organized crime groups operating in the area.
Acapulco was once known as a glamorous beach resort, where John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned and Hollywood stars vacationed. The trailer for Elvis Presley’s 1963 film “Fun in Acapulco” called the city “the world’s paradise of fun.”
But in recent years, organized crime groups have battled for control of the local drug trafficking and extortion rackets and it became the deadliest city in Mexico. Still, the resort, a five-hour drive from Mexico City, remains popular with Mexican tourists.
On Wednesday, Acapulco was a city in shock. Dozens of restaurants, hotels and homes suffered serious damage, Mexican media reported.
A tourist, Luisa Peña, said she was startled when the lights in her room at the Princess hotel blinked off on Tuesday night. “I hid in the closet and started to pray, to meditate, to calm myself down,” she said in a video posted to X by the Mexican journalist César Jiménez. “I was overwhelmed by panic.”
Otis weakened to a Category 1 storm Wednesday morning as it moved inland over mountainous terrain. It still presented risks of flash flooding and mudslides. It was expected to dissipate by late Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
Diana Durán in Bogotá, Colombia, and Amudalat Ajasa, Scott Dance and Justine McDaniel in Washington contributed to this report.