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The eye of Hurricane Otis makes landfall near Mexico's Acapulco

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A monster Category 5 hurricane has made landfall near the Mexican resort town of Acapulco. Hurricane Otis went from a tropical storm to a top-of-the-scale cyclone in a matter of hours, and forecasters say the effects could be catastrophic. NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now from his base in Mexico City. Eyder, good morning.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So first of all, where is this hurricane, and what are the conditions?

PERALTA: I mean, this is a serious a situation as it gets with hurricanes. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are using dire language, and they don't tend to do that. In a discussion last night, forecasters said this is a, quote, "nightmare scenario." Hurricane Otis went from a tropical storm yesterday morning to a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour. And a Category 5, we should remind everyone, is the top rating for hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

And Hurricane Otis made landfall this morning very near Acapulco. And Acapulco is this famous resort town on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and it's a city with more than 1 million people. We're already seeing videos from tourists in high-rise buildings where the windows have caved. We're seeing windows of patients at hospitals taking cover in rain-soaked hallways. The iconic bay of the city of Acapulco is now dark, and there are reports of serious damage to buildings in downtown Acapulco.

MARTIN: Wow. That sounds - wow. That's very dramatic. And...

PERALTA: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...You - you know, as - so you were just saying, yesterday morning, a tropical storm, now a Category 5. Is this unusual?

PERALTA: I mean, we've been seeing this more and more, but this is unusual and stunning. I mean, even the computer models got it wrong. They didn't predict it this fast, this explosive in intensification. Meteorologists say Hurricane Otis has broken records already. It went from 65 miles an hour - winds of 65 miles per hour to 160 miles an hour in a little more than half a day, one of the fastest intensifications by a hurricane in history. But what's also worrying is that this part of Mexico has not seen storms like this in the past. The National Hurricane Center says, quote, "there are no hurricanes on record even close to this intensity for this part of Mexico." The last big hurricane to affect this part of Mexico was Hurricane Carlotta in 2012, and that was a Category 2 hurricane.

MARTIN: So what's the Mexican government saying? Are they prepared?

PERALTA: They're taking this seriously. The army has deployed some 8,000 troops. The local government there says it's ready to open nearly 400 shelters. And it has - and it did evacuate people from lower ground. But look, up until last night, the government was preparing for a regular hurricane that would make landfall somewhere north of Acapulco. And what we have this morning is something totally different. We have a direct hit on a major Mexican city by a Category 5 hurricane. Overnight, President Andres Lopez Obrador said - told people to please evacuate, to please listen to authorities and seek higher ground. But it's looking very likely that this storm will cause a lot of destruction and a lot of heartbreak.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from Mexico City. Eyder, thank you so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.