Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:18 PM GMT on November 10, 2008
Hurricane Paloma has died, torn apart by high wind shear and passage over the rugged terrain of Cuba. The remains of Paloma can still be seen in satellite imagery, spinning over central Cuba, but with wind shear a hefty 50 knots, there is no chance of Paloma regenerating into a tropical storm. Elsewhere in the Atlantic, there are no threat areas to discuss, and none of the reliable computer models are forecasting tropical storm development over the next seven days. With wind shear expected to rise over the Caribbean later this week, and continue to remain at high levels until late November, it is likely that the Atlantic hurricane season of 2008 is finally over. It is possible we could get one more weak tropical storm out in the middle Atlantic, forming from an extratropical storm that gets cut off from the jet stream. Such storms are usually only a threat to shipping, and rarely affect land areas, though.
Paloma's impact on the Cayman Islands
Paloma roared through the Cayman Islands Friday night and Saturday morning as a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds, brushing Grand Cayman Island, but pounding the "Sister Islands" to the northeast--Little Cayman and Cayman Brac--with its northern eyewall. The hardest-hit Cayman island was Cayman Brac, population 2,000, which was the only Cayman island to receive a direct hit from Paloma. Damage on Cayman Brac was very heavy, with over 90% of all the buildings damaged. However, the Cayman Compass reports that relief efforts are progressing swiftly. The airport has reopened, most of the roads have been cleared, and both gas stations on the island have re-opened. One person on the island sustained injuries requiring hospitalization. Paloma was the worst hurricane to hit the island since the deadly 1932 hurricane that flattened Cayman Brac, killing 69 people. Ironically, both hurricanes occurred on November 8.
Figure 1. Damage on Cayman Brac from Hurricane Paloma. Image credit: Glenda Davidowski.
Paloma's impact on Cuba
Paloma smashed into Cuba near Santa Cruz del Sur as a Category 3 hurricane with 120-125 mph winds. The hurricane destroyed at least 435 buildings in the city, and damaged 4,000 more. The hurricane's storm surge, estimated at over 20 feet, penetrated as far as a mile inland. However, no deaths have been reported in Cuba from Paloma, thanks to the evacuation of over 1.2 million people from vulnerable areas. The last major hurricane to hit Santa Cruz del Sur, the infamous Category 4 November 1932 hurricane, completely inundated the city with its storm surge, killing over 3,000 people. Paloma was the third major hurricane to hit Cuba this year, the first time that nation has received three major hurricane strikes. The other two major hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, did a combined $9.4 billion in damage to Cuba, destroying about 1/3 of the nation's crops. Paloma weakened so rapidly that its damage will be far less than Gustav's and Ike's. Seven Cubans died in Ike, and none in Gustav. The fact that only seven deaths occurred from the three major hurricane that hit Cuba this year is a testament to the success of their remarkable hurricane civil defense efforts. Some 4.4 million people had to be evacuated for the three hurricanes, 2.8 million of these because of Ike. Ike and Gustav destroyed 63,000 homes and damaged 440,000 more, and every province of Cuba reported hurricane damage. According to the official Granma newspaper, "the economic, social, and housing situation of the country has been devastated as never before in its history" due to Gustav and Ike.
Figure 1. Map of the hurricanes that have affected Cuba this year. Image credit: ReliefWeb.
Support the Portlight Christmas for Gulf Coast Kids Honor Walk
The Portlight.org charity is sponsoring a new nationwide grassroots event to raise funds for and awareness of their ongoing efforts, specifically to provide Christmas presents (and maybe a big party) for kids and families in the Gulf Coast areas devastated by Hurricane Ike. They need 100 people across the country to commit to walking one mile on November 22, and to raise at least $300.00 in sponsorship from friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Participants can choose where they want to walk--the local park, the mall, anywhere. Please support this worthwhile effort!
I'll have an update Tuesday.
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