According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, Hurricane Carlotta came onshore Friday night as a Category 1 storm near the Oaxacan town of Puerto Escondido (est. pop. 26,000 in 2010), about 200 miles southeast of Acapulco. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), maximum sustained winds were 90 mph at landfall. Given the currently available information, AIR does not expect significant insured losses from Carlotta, the third named storm of the Pacific hurricane season.
“Carlotta was a relatively small hurricane at landfall, with hurricane force winds extending less than 30 miles from the eye,” said Dr. Tim Doggett, principal scientist at AIR Worldwide. “As a result, damaging winds affected only a small portion of the coast.”
During the day on Friday, Carlotta had intensified into a powerful Category 2 hurricane as it moved toward southern Mexico, causing authorities to open emergency shelters and hotel owners to gather up outdoor furniture and other potential sources of flying debris in preparation for the storm.
Reports from Puerto Escondido indicate that trees and billboards were blown down and windows that had not been boarded up were shattered by debris.
According to AIR, the light metal roofs of some commercial buildings were peeled off and more serious structural damage occurred to some informally-built homes. It is estimated that as many as 50% of residential structures are constructed without a building permit; these, however, are also unlikely to be insured.
Dr. Doggett continued, “Once over land, Carlotta’s winds quickly dissipated. By 8:00 am PDT (1500 UTC) on Saturday, the NHC had downgraded Carlotta to a tropical depression. However, heavy rains continue to soak the region. Furthermore, because of weak steering currents, the remnants of Carlotta lingered in the same general area, which amplified the threat of flood and landslides.”
“As of Saturday night, total rainfall amounts of 6 to 9 inches had been reported, with higher amounts likely to have occurred in areas of higher terrain. With additional rainfall that is expected to occur through the weekend, the threat of life-threatening flash floods and landslides will continue. Fortunately, Carlotta impacted a relatively sparsely populated region.”
The storm passed north of Mexico’s largest oil refinery—the 330,000 barrel-per-day facility at Salina Cruz installation—which remained open. No damage has been reported in the resort city of Acapulco.