Hurricane Earl made landfall in Belize last Thursday, with final landfall as a tropical storm in Southeast Mexico over the weekend. Impacts have been rendered in Belize as a result of strong wind gusts, an impactful storm surge and heavy rainfall. Some damage to property and infrastructure has been reported, although the full scope and severity remain unclear. Significant rainfall has also affected areas of Southeast Mexico, with reports of destructive flooding, landslides and property damage. At least 42 have been reported dead in Southeast Mexico and another 2,000 have been displaced, according to media reports. The full extent of impacts from this event remains unclear as recovery and assessment efforts are still underway. Our first thoughts and concerns are with those lost and directly affected by this event.
Hurricane Earl formed from a tropical wave that left the African coast in late July. As the wave rapidly crossed the Atlantic, development was suppressed in the presence of dry, stable and dusty air. As the wave moved into the Central Caribbean Sea on August 1, organized thunderstorm activity and strong winds were apparent, thanks to warm waters and reduced wind shear. A closed circulation then developed on August 2 at which time the National Hurricane Center (NHC) upgraded the feature to tropical storm status.
Hurricane Earl track and position reports. SOURCE: Guy Carpenter, National Hurricane Center.
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Tropical Storm Earl then intensified steadily while following a slower westward track. Earl was upgraded by the NHC to hurricane status at 8 p.m. EDT on August 3 (00 UTC on August 4), with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. Just prior to landfall near Belize City, Hurricane Earl carried maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Minimum central pressure was 979 millibars (mb), with hurricane and tropical storm winds extending outward from the center to 15 and 140 miles, respectively. According to NHC advisories, Hurricane Earl then made landfall around 2 a.m. EDT (06 UTC) on August 4, just south of Belize City.
After moving inland over Belize, Earl weakened steadily while continuing on a westward track. Earl was downgraded to tropical storm status by the NHC at 8 a.m. EDT (12 UTC) on August 4, while the storm was crossing into Guatemala. Earl was able to maintain tropical storm status while crossing the Yucatan Peninsula before entering Southern Bay of Campeche early on August 5, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.
While following the southern coast of the Bay of Campeche, Earl was able to regain intensity with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. Tropical Storm Earl then moved ashore just southeast of Veracruz, Mexico around 10 p.m. EDT on August 5 (02 UTC on August 6), with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and a minimum central pressure of 999 mb, according to NHC advisories.
Earl then weakened rapidly thanks to the topography of Mexico. Earl was downgraded by the NHC to a tropical depression at 8 a.m. EDT (12 UTC) on August 6, before dissipating over the mountains of Southern Mexico. The remnants and moisture of Earl have since crossed into the East Pacific Basin and merged with another disturbance to form Tropical Storm Javier, which now threatens interests in Northwest Mexico including the Baja Peninsula.
The primary threat of Earl was from heavy rainfall to affect areas including the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Southeast Mexico. Flash flooding and mudslides were reported as a result of heavy rains. Rainfall amounts of up to 12 inches were reported in Belize. Meanwhile in Mexico, local rainfall amounts of 12 to 18 inches were reported amidst general rainfall amounts of four to eight inches. A storm surge of up to six feet was also reported in and around Belize City to cause significant flooding for affected areas. Gusty winds were also of concern, with wind gusts to 58 mph reported in Belize City and gusts to 52 mph reported in Veracruz, Mexico, according to media reports.
Heavy rainfall over the topography of Mexico has caused significant flash-flooding and landslides. Initial media reports indicate at least 42 dead in Mexico, with another 2,000 rendered homeless. The majority of fatalities were reported in Puebla State, with fatalities also reported in Veracruz State.
Significant impacts were reported near the town of Huachinango in the Sierra Norte de Puebla Mountains, where more than 25 fatalities were reported. Canine search and rescue teams continue to search for the missing, with numbers still unclear at this time.
In Veracruz, landslides in the towns of Coscomatepec, Tequila, and Huayacocotla have left at least 11 dead. Media reports indicate that according to the governor of Veracruz, the state is monitoring rivers that remain above critical levels.
Ongoing heavy rain in the area led to closure of the main federal highway connecting Mexico City to the region, according to media reports. Work crews are clearing landslides from the road. However, additional rainfall is hampering efforts. According to federal transportation authorities, the area has received a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours.
Some damage to property and infrastructure has been reported in Belize as a result of strong wind gusts, an impactful storm surge and heavy rainfall. Media reports indicate that much of Belize was without power following landfall and water supplies were temporarily affected. Area dams remain at flood stage. Some infrastructure damage has been reported in Belize City, Belmopan and the offshore cayes, including damage to bridges and roadways. Downed powerlines, uprooted trees and torn roofs have been reported across the capital. The International Airport in Belize City was ordered closed, according to media reports.
In Honduras, heavy rain impacted most of the country while Earl affected the northern coast. Emergency management officials reported large numbers of downed trees and powerlines, according to media reports. Schools and universities, as well as two commercial airports, were closed in the coastal provinces during the storm.
While still a tropical wave, Earl brought down powerlines starting a fire on a bus with six passengers, leading to fatalities.
Sources: El Pais Internacional, Associated Press, Weather Underground, The Weather Channel, National Hurricane Center, RMS, AIR Worldwide, Reuters.
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