Tropical Storm Agatha one of the top ten deadliest Eastern Pacific storms on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:56 PM GMT on May 31, 2010

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The Eastern Pacific hurricane season of 2010 is off to a bad start. The mounting death toll from Central America's Tropical Storm Agatha has made that storm one of the top ten deadliest Eastern Pacific tropical cyclones on record. Agatha was a tropical storm for just 12 hours, making landfall Saturday on the Pacific coast of Guatemala as a 45 mph tropical storm. However, the storm brought huge amounts of moisture inland that continue to be wrung out as heavy rains by the high mountains of Guatemala and the surrounding nations of Central America. So far, flooding and landslides have killed at least 83 people in Guatemala, 13 in neighboring El Salvador, and one in Honduras. Guatemala is also suffering from the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala, which began erupting four days ago. At least three people have been killed by the volcano, located about 25 miles south of the capital, Guatemala City. The volcano has destroyed 800 homes with lava and brought moderate ash falls to the capital.


Figure 1. Flood damage in Zunil, Quetzaltenango, in Guatemala on May 29, 2010, after heavy rains from Tropical Storm Agatha. Image credit: Sergio Huertas, climaya.com

Agatha is the deadliest flooding disaster in Guatemala since Hurricane Stan of 2005, which killed 1,513. In a bizarre coincidence, that storm also featured a major volcanic eruption at the same time, when El Salvador's Santa Ana volcano blew its top during the height of Stan's rains in in that country on October 1. The eruption killed two and injured dozens, and worsened the mud flow damage from Stan's rains. The deadliest Eastern Pacific tropical cyclone on record for Guatemala was Hurricane Paul of 1982, which made landfall in Guatemala as a tropical depression. Flooding from Paul's rains killed 620 people in Guatemala.


Figure 2. Two-day rainfall totals for Central America as estimated by satellite, for the period 7pm EDT Friday May 28 - 7pm EDT Sunday May 30, 2010. Rainfall amounts of 350 mm (14 inches, orange colors) were indicated for portions of Guatemala. The Guatemala government reported that rainfall exceeded 36 inches in some regions. Image credit: Navy Research Lab, Monterey.

Oil spill update
Light onshore winds out of the south to southwest are expected to blow over the northern Gulf of Mexico all week, resulting increased threats of oil to the Alabama and Mississippi barrier islands, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA. These persistent southwesterly winds will likely bring oil very close to the Florida Panhandle by next weekend.

Oil spill resources
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post Wednesday with answers to some of the common questions I get about the spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
NOAA trajectory forecasts
Deepwater Horizon Unified Command web site
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Surface current forecasts from NOAA's HYCOM model
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and its Aftermath
What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish

Jeff Masters

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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


I lol'd. How do you know these kinds of things? XD
Google, lol.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
it has to be a min of 12 hrs of persistant convection for a investive area it firer up just before 9 am at 9 pm 12 hrs if its there then its an area of invest


But obviously that changes upon rapid organization.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Yikes, what a horrible start! I'm almost certain that Agatha will be one of the few East Pacific storms to be retired.
I think so too.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
LOL. Did you know that "oilfish" is an actual fish because of the high oil content in its meat, it can be found in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Oilfish


I lol'd. How do you know these kinds of things? XD
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it has to be a min of 12 hrs of persistant convection for a investive area it firer up just before 9 am at 9 pm 12 hrs if its there then its an area of invest
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Quoting altesticstorm10:

Yeah, sure you can still fish off the Florida Gulf Coast...it's a new species called oilfish. I wonder how good that must taste, the natural flavor of the fish blended with the succulant taste and smell of the...crude petroleum...
LOL. Did you know that "oilfish" is an actual fish because of the high oil content in its meat, it can be found in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Oilfish
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
The "Belize Blob" is headed for 30 to 40 knots of shear and will hit that area in the next few hours. This is a short term offshore rainmaker IMO. A little system like that will likely be decapitated by the shear in short order.

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Getting some nice thunder here in C GA. Yesterday we had an insane severe storm with winds of 60 mph + and 1 inch hail. Haven't seen that in a LONG time.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Agatha is currently the 8th deadliest eastern Pacific hurricane, resulting in 114 fatalities. It's also the only system to make it on the list in the 21st Century. WOW.


Yikes, what a horrible start! I'm almost certain that Agatha will be one of the few East Pacific storms to be retired.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


In the last couple of frames it's shape sorta resembles a brick. Impressive convection, and an interesting feature, but I don't think this will be the storm that kicks off the season.
neither do i but stranger things can happen
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
just an AOI till after nine then INV if its still there maintaining increasing and firing connvection


I don't think they HAVE to wait until after nine or so to declare an invest, but I think they will, if they declare an invest.
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Quoting Levi32:


Ya, I'm an Alaskan, I must love fishing.

Actually....I hate fishing.


Crawfish go backwards. That's called crawfishing in Louisiana, to back off from what was asserted earlier.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6034
Quoting indianrivguy:
Quoting altesticstorm10:
That's why I've never put a single user on ignore in my entire 4 years and 30 accounts here on WU..

wow... and all that time I've only had one.. :)
That might be JFV. LOL J/K, back to lurking.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting EricSFL:
According to the visible loop, I believe the circulation is still east of northern Belize, south of all the convection.


I think its north east of belize to just a bit so the South west of the convection.
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Quoting altesticstorm10:
That's why I've never put a single user on ignore in my entire 4 years and 30+ accounts here on WU..

wow... and all that time I've only had one.. :)
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Quoting bappit:
668

There is no 91L at this time.

There is an interesting blob.
just an AOI till after nine then INV if its still there maintaining increasing and firing connvection
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Quoting bappit:
668

There is no 91L at this time.

There is an interesting blob.
Exactly what I was speaking about earlier, he/she called me a smart a** for telling he/she not to call it a TD. (sigh) I'm going into lurking mode now.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


In the last couple of frames it's shape sorta resembles a brick. Impressive convection, and an interesting feature, but I don't think this will be the storm that kicks off the season.
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Quoting Levi32:


Ya, I'm an Alaskan, I must love fishing.

Actually....I hate fishing.
LOL. I love fishing, just hope the oil doesn't get into the loop current or else no fishing for me :(.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
668

There is no 91L at this time.

There is an interesting blob.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6034
Quoting frostynugs:
seems to really be liking that warm carribean water. lotsa storms blowing up. is shear forecast to relax in the gulf any time soon? i sure hope not... i'd hope that if we did get a storm in the gulf, they would have at least had a chance to stop that damn well from gushing.

if you cannot cap a deep sea well immediately, offshore drilling should be banned! taking 1.5 months and counting is not acceptable!


sheer will drop but not by too much.
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Quoting altesticstorm10:

But then there's that anticyclonic high centered right above 91L.
Like I said before it's not 91L so please don't call it that.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
According to the visible loop, I believe the circulation is still east of northern Belize, south of all the convection.
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Quoting bappit:


He's crawfishing.


Ya, I'm an Alaskan, I must love fishing.

Actually....I hate fishing.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Agatha is currently the 8th deadliest eastern Pacific hurricane, resulting in 114 fatalities. It's also the only system to make it on the list in the 21st Century. WOW.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
seems to really be liking that warm carribean water. lotsa storms blowing up. is shear forecast to relax in the gulf any time soon? i sure hope not... i'd hope that if we did get a storm in the gulf, they would have at least had a chance to stop that damn well from gushing.

if you cannot cap a deep sea well immediately, offshore drilling should be banned! taking 1.5 months and counting is not acceptable!
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Quoting Levi32:


I suppose the west to NW winds the last several hours mean nothing?

EDT (UTC) Temperature
F (C) Dew Point
F (C) Pressure
Inches (hPa) Wind
MPH Weather
Latest 2 PM (18) May 31 89 (32) 77 (25) 29.88 (1011) NW 6
1 PM (17) May 31 89 (32) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) NNW 10
Noon (16) May 31 87 (31) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) 10
11 AM (15) May 31 86 (30) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) W 7
10 AM (14) May 31 86 (30) 77 (25) 29.86 (1011) Calm
9 AM (13) May 31 80 (27) 77 (25) 29.86 (1011) Calm
8 AM (12) May 31 80 (27) 77 (25) 29.83 (1010) Calm

The NW indicates to me that the circulation is elongated to the south, and that is apparent on satellite imagery. That is one thing not going for the system, but it is closed....westerly winds well south of the center. Not a very well-defined circulation but not as small as you say.


He's crawfishing.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6034
Cumulus cloud streets over the eastern Yucatan are beginning to turn and travel from the ENE towards the end of the loop instead of the ESE flow that was present this morning. This indicates the surface low starting to try to pull inflow from the west.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting Weather456:


Not the same. What propelled Arlene north was a trough over the Central CONUS. There was a ridge adjacent to this trough over the FL Peninsula which was responsible for lowering the shear over Arlene.


OK
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Quoting Levi32:


I suppose the west to NW winds the last several hours mean nothing?

EDT (UTC) Temperature
F (C) Dew Point
F (C) Pressure
Inches (hPa) Wind
MPH Weather
Latest 2 PM (18) May 31 89 (32) 77 (25) 29.88 (1011) NW 6
1 PM (17) May 31 89 (32) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) NNW 10
Noon (16) May 31 87 (31) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) 10
11 AM (15) May 31 86 (30) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) W 7
10 AM (14) May 31 86 (30) 77 (25) 29.86 (1011) Calm
9 AM (13) May 31 80 (27) 77 (25) 29.86 (1011) Calm
8 AM (12) May 31 80 (27) 77 (25) 29.83 (1010) Calm

The NW indicates to me that the circulation is elongated to the south, and that is apparent on satellite imagery. That is one thing not going for the system, but it is closed....westerly winds well south of the center. Not a very well-defined circulation but not as small as you say.


sea breeze... actually I wish this was a TD, that way we can all agree and start looking @ what may happen....oh well its very early in the season (not even june yet)
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Quoting EricSFL:


Isn't that the same feature that in 2005 decreased shear and supported Arlene moving northward?


Not the same. What propelled Arlene north was a trough over the Central CONUS. There was a ridge adjacent to this trough over the FL Peninsula which was responsible for lowering the shear over Arlene.
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Quoting scottsvb:


Well they use that into the equation.. if they are looking for a west wind..and a ship report comes in and its verified.. then they will classify.. it has been done many times before.
Oh yeah, I'm sure they use it to some extent but I don't think they really "base" it solely and completely on one ship report is what I mean.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting kuppenskup:


Do they still have that rule where we cant fly over Cuban Air Space, not even for Recon Procedures?
They would just fly around it.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21254
Quoting extreme236:


I'd have to disagree. If I had more time I would go back and look thru the archives to find an example but I'm sure it's been done before.


Yes, ship obs have been used to classify TDs near the Cape Verde islands.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting altesticstorm10:
Regarding the ignore feature this site as well as many others offer...my own personal opinion is that ignoring something else makes one ignorant, literally. That's why I've never put a single user on ignore in my entire 4 years and 30+ accounts here on WU...and I don't plan to, unless someone's seriously spamming up the blogs to a severe extent. I have the mental compatibility to ignore someone without using a computerized blocking function.
I've never put anyone on ignore, but if they go too far I will have no problem doing so.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting altesticstorm10:
If Barry could handle 40 kt shear...


That's a bad example. Barry was somewhat subtropical and very large, while these remnants are small and tropical. Extratropical and subtropical systems seem to fair better in shear than most small tropical systems.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Yeah but not to classify an invest to TD status is what I mean.


Well they use that into the equation.. if they are looking for a west wind..and a ship report comes in and its verified.. then they will classify.. it has been done many times before.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Yeah but not to classify an invest to TD status is what I mean.


I'd have to disagree. If I had more time I would go back and look thru the archives to find an example but I'm sure it's been done before.
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656. MZV
scottsvb, we see that every season. Sometimes people are perlexed when the NHC labels a storm ... but most of the armchair carping here, is that the real forecasters are too conservative.

By the middle of the season I can't even follow this blog anymore (aside frm Dr Master's headline post) and move to one of the other ones.

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Quoting Weather456:


Not really.


Thanks, that is what I thought.
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Quoting extreme236:


The NHC uses ship reports a lot
Yeah but not to classify an invest to TD status is what I mean.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting altesticstorm10:

Nah, none of that intended. Don't put me on ignore or anything...just calling him out. JFV's gone, everyone should be happy.
And why is it that you are calling me out, nothing bad have I done to you.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting scottsvb:


Might of been from when the weak low pressure moved north last night into this morning. Right now there is no west wind except possibly within 10 miles of the center (if at all) I say this is a open trough of low pressure with S, E winds mostly.


I suppose the west to NW winds the last several hours mean nothing?

EDT (UTC) Temperature
F (C) Dew Point
F (C) Pressure
Inches (hPa) Wind
MPH Weather
Latest 2 PM (18) May 31 89 (32) 77 (25) 29.88 (1011) NW 6
1 PM (17) May 31 89 (32) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) NNW 10
Noon (16) May 31 87 (31) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) 10
11 AM (15) May 31 86 (30) 77 (25) 29.89 (1012) W 7
10 AM (14) May 31 86 (30) 77 (25) 29.86 (1011) Calm
9 AM (13) May 31 80 (27) 77 (25) 29.86 (1011) Calm
8 AM (12) May 31 80 (27) 77 (25) 29.83 (1010) Calm

The NW indicates to me that the circulation is elongated to the south, and that is apparent on satellite imagery. That is one thing not going for the system, but it is closed....westerly winds well south of the center. Not a very well-defined circulation but not as small as you say.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I've never heard the NHC base something on ship reports, ASCAT yes, but not ship reports.


The NHC uses ship reports a lot
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.