Hurricane Otis got much too strong much too quickly for forecasters to predict it — and experts are concerned for the future

Hurricane Otis struck Acapulco, Mexico, early Wednesday in what the National Hurricane Center has described as a “nightmare scenario.”

At least 27 people have been killed by the enormously powerful Category 5 storm, whose winds were 165 miles per hour when it made landfall.

The storm broke several records for its destruction and behavior, including being the strongest hurricane on record to ever hit the Pacific side of Mexico — this after Hurricane Lidia had previously become the third-strongest earlier this month.

But Otis was significantly more damaging because of its location. Acapulco, with a population of over a million people, is likely the largest urban center in the world to ever directly experience the eyewall of a Category 5 hurricane.

Known for its tourism industry, Acapulco experienced massive infrastructure damage, with The New York Times reporting that about 80% of hotels saw storm damage.

And while the worst direct impacts of the storm may have passed, the people there are suffering, with one resident saying, “We have no gas, no water, no food.”

What made Hurricane Otis so dangerous?

While all hurricanes pose serious dangers, what made Otis so disastrous was its “rapid intensification,” giving residents little time to prepare.

Essentially, right before reaching Acapulco, Hurricane Otis “experienced nearly unprecedented explosive development, going from a Category 1 [tropical storm] to a catastrophic Category 5 with nearly no warning,” reports Fox Weather.

In just the span of a single day, Otis’ winds increased in speed by nearly 115 miles per hour.

Why are more hurricanes rapidly intensifying?

The ocean water below Otis was unusually warm, at 88 degrees Fahrenheit. As the storm moved closer to Acapulco, it absorbed energy from the water below it, powering its destruction.

The Atlantic describes hot ocean water as “hurricane food.” Hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach explained to the Washington Post that “when you have waters that are this hot, it does load the dice for rapid intensification.”

So as our oceans warm because of the general overheating of our planet, they’re more likely to experience this rapid intensification. Unfortunately, research studies are confirming that rapid intensification is becoming more common.

The trend of more rapidly intensifying storms is frightening, as it makes predicting the severity of storms far more difficult. This means people have less time to prepare or evacuate.

How you can help

Right now, the people of Acapulco need support. Specifically, cash donations to aid organizations can ensure that people receive food, medical attention, and shelter to help them through the early stages of recovery.

Organizations like GlobalGiving and the Red Cross are among the best providing support to the Mexican people.

GlobalGiving is providing people with clean water, shelter, medicine, mental health support, and food. When donating to the Red Cross, you can specify that you’d like your support to go directly toward disaster relief.


Apart from donating to support the survivors of Hurricane Otis, there are other actions we can all take to prevent further damage from storms.

The best way to decrease the power of future storms is to keep our planet cooler. We can all do our part to achieve that by swapping from dirty energy sources, like methane gas and coal, to cheap and abundant clean energy, when possible.

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