Hurricane Blas closes Mexican port as it strengthens in the Pacific

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The second hurricane of the Eastern Pacific storm season has closed a port in Mexico, just weeks after Hurricane Agatha slammed into the country.

The storm, named Blas, strengthened into a hurricane on Wednesday, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) — meaning wind speeds were now greater than 74 mph (119 kph).

The storm is not expected to hit land directly, the agency said, instead veering off westward into the ocean. But dangerous surf conditions were hitting the coast, and Puerto Escondido, a port in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, was closed as of Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

Wind speeds had reached almost 85 mph (137 kph) by Thursday morning, with the storm expected to begin weakening by Friday night, NHC said.

Hurricane Agatha, a Category 2 storm, swept over southern Mexico in late May. Windspeeds reached over 105 mph (169 kph), and heavy rain caused flooding and mudslides that killed at least nine people, the AP notes.

Hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific runs from mid-May through the fall, NHC says. Hurricane Agatha was the strongest Eastern Pacific storm on record to hit in the month of May.

The agency predicts a below-average hurricane season in the eastern Pacific this year, with between 10-17 named storms, as La Niña conditions continue to depress hurricane activity.

Those same La Niña conditions can boost hurricane activity in the Atlantic however, and NHC predicts an above-average hurricane season on the Atlantic side of the continent, with between 14 and 21 named storms.

Tropical cyclones are generally expected to get stronger as the climate crisis grows, according to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In part, this strengthening is due to warmer ocean temperatures and more air moisture, which can power stronger storms, Nasa notes.

AP contributed to this report

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