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 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
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
Quoting weather42009:


So basically, you have not seen anything to increase it chances since this morning?


Not really.
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Quoting Weather456:


Look over the GOM and you see an upper level circulation moving east.


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





NICES
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Quoting hydrus:
It is not that far away either. If this was a little more organized, they would send a recon.jmo


Do they still have that rule where we cant fly over Cuban Air Space, not even for Recon Procedures?
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Quoting Weather456:
Not impressed by the ASCAT pass nor the satellite presentation. What I am somewhat impressed with is that a LLC managed to form from the remnants of Agatha so quickly, and we can thank the SSTs for supporting the upward motion. I will have to continue to give this a low chance of becoming a TD because if development is going to take place, I would assume it happens now since ex-Agatha is clearly moving N as we speak.


So basically, you have not seen anything to increase it chances since this morning?
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Quoting scottsvb:


Ship reports are better then Ascat . NHC will classify something more if they get a ship report reporting a W wind on something cause Ascats are usually laggin behind timewise.
I've never heard the NHC base something on ship reports, ASCAT yes, but not ship reports.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting MZV:
I agree with MiamiHurricanes09. Ship readings have too much variation to rely much on. The weather bouys are better.


Ship reports are better then Ascat . NHC will classify something more if they get a ship report reporting a W wind on something cause Ascats are usually laggin behind timewise.
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642. xcool
Link


HERE ECMWF 12Z RUN 2010.
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Quoting leo305:
what's causing its somewhat quick North movement


Look over the GOM and you see an upper level circulation moving east.
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Quoting scottsvb:
I think the bickering is beginning to heat up cause there was no mention really of something about to develop by the NHC in the carribean and the peeps that think there is something are getting upset with the conservative peeps seeing a midlevel system and a LL trough with a weak low.
I think we need to all get a Beer and relax for a hour ... ps the kids can get a rootbeer.
LOL, I'll take sprite.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Definitely.
It is not that far away either. If this was a little more organized, they would send a recon.jmo
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Quoting MZV:
I agree with MiamiHurricanes09. Ship readings have too much variation to rely much on. The weather bouys are better.
I agree.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
I think the bickering is beginning to heat up cause there was no mention really of something about to develop by the NHC in the carribean and the peeps that think there is something are getting upset with the conservative peeps seeing a midlevel system and a LL trough with a weak low.
I think we need to all get a Beer and relax for a hour ... ps the kids can get a rootbeer.
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634. MZV
I agree with MiamiHurricanes09. Ship readings have too much variation to rely much on. The weather bouys are better.
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what's causing its somewhat quick North movement
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This kind of reminds of Alberto in 1982. Formed around the same time of the yr and went from a disturbance to a Cat 1 Hurricane in just 36hrs before it committed suicide out in the Gulf. But before it did they issued Hurricane Warnings for the Keys & SW Fla and a Watch for the East part of Florida.
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CARIBBEAN SEA...
TWO TROPICAL WAVES ARE OVER SOUTH AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN SEA.
SEE ABOVE. A 1010 MB LOW IS CENTERED OFF THE COAST OF BELIZE
NEAR 18N87W DRIFTING N. SCATTERED MODERATE TO ISOLATED STRONG
CONVECTION IS FROM 17N-19N BETWEEN 85W-87W. SCATTERED SHOWERS
ARE OVER THE NW CARIBBEAN N OF 20N BETWEEN 78W-87W. FURTHER S...
SCATTERED MODERATE TO ISOLATED STRONG CONVECTION IS OVER PANAMA
FROM 8N-11N BETWEEN 77W-80W. FURTHER E...THE TAIL END OF A
SURFACE TROUGH FROM N OF THE LEEWARD ISLANDS TO HISPANIOLA IS
PRODUCING ISOLATED MODERATE CONVECTION FROM 17N-21N BETWEEN
66W-71W. IN THE UPPER LEVELS...AN UPPER LEVEL HIGH IS CENTERED
OVER THE W CARIBBEAN NEAR 15N82W. ANOTHER UPPER LEVEL HIGH IS
CENTERED E OF THE LEEWARD ISLANDS NEAR 16N58W. SUBSIDENCE IS
NOTED IN THE VICINITY OF BOTH UPPER LEVEL HIGHS WHILE UPPER
LEVEL MOISTURE IS NOTED ELSEWHERE. EXPECT OVER THE NEXT 24
HOURS...FOR RAIN AND SHOWERS TO DOT MOST OF THE CARIBBEAN DUE TO
THE EXISTING SURFACE FEATURES.
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630. xcool
I HOPE WE HAVE invest SOON..
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Quoting scottsvb:


recon is best
Definitely.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting WAHA:

Are you saying 13 yr olds are bad? I'm thirteen! No offense if you weren't saying that, but still...that post is full of hypocrisy. He's learning from his mistakes, I'm sure.
Sorry if that offended you, that's not of my intent...
Save it for the playground guys.
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626. MZV
WAHA, I can read you. I have my settings to cut off at "Below Average".
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Ship reports? Surface analysis and ASCAT are the most reliable, ship reports can be way off sometimes.


recon is best
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Not impressed by the ASCAT pass nor the satellite presentation. What I am somewhat impressed with is that a LLC managed to form from the remnants of Agatha so quickly, and we can thank the SSTs for supporting the upward motion. I will have to continue to give this a low chance of becoming a TD because if development is going to take place, I would assume it happens now since ex-Agatha is clearly moving N as we speak.
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Quoting WAHA:

Are you saying 13 yr olds are bad? I'm thirteen! No offense if you weren't saying that, but still...that post is full of hypocrisy. He's learning from his mistakes, I'm sure.
Sorry if that offended you, that's not of my intent...
Ah whatever, ignore him or her and move on.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting Levi32:


That's a dang surface station what are you talking about, station ID MHRO. It's on an island for crying out loud.


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.
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621. WAHA
Quoting altesticstorm10:

You've been acting as a real smartypants wannabe today over it...seriously, don't make those kinds of comments. Especially the one on the last page and the one about the down syndrome. You're what, 13? Well I was 13 when I joined in 2006 and didn't make those kinds of posts then...

Back to the tropics...I feel pre-91L is a tropical depression already...

Are you saying 13 yr olds are bad? I'm thirteen! No offense if you weren't saying that, but still...that post is full of hypocrisy. He's learning from his mistakes, I'm sure.
Sorry if that offended you, that's not of my intent...
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Quoting scottsvb:



I'm never 1 to trust surface analysis maps lol. I like Ship reports with surface and satellite obs if the recon isnt there.
Ship reports? Surface analysis and ASCAT are the most reliable, ship reports can be way off sometimes.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting scottsvb:



I'm never 1 to trust surface analysis maps lol. I like Ship reports with surface and satellite obs if the recon isnt there.


That's a dang surface station what are you talking about, station ID MHRO. It's on an island for crying out loud.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547


I think not death
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Loop

Code Yellow or not; interesting nonetheless.
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Quoting Levi32:


Take a look at this surface station, and then look at this:



The surface winds are westerly to northwesterly south of the center. The flow looks elongated south of the center to me, but the low is at least loosely closed all the way to the surface.



I'm never 1 to trust surface analysis maps lol. I like Ship reports with surface and satellite obs if the recon isnt there.
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Quoting scottsvb:


like 456, Im not impressed @ all. To be 91L I can understand though cause it does have a surface reflection and 1010mb low but it has no model support and pressures are rising. The west winds you see east of belize are actually just above the surface @ 1,000 ft


Take a look at this surface station north of Honduras, and then look at this:



The surface winds are westerly to northwesterly south of the center. The flow looks elongated south of the center to me, but the low is at least loosely closed all the way to the surface.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting ElConando:


Its funny how Tropical depressions usually need 30mph winds to be called by the NHC but yet they can still be called tropical depressions when winds are 10-15mph when weakening.


Its because of continuation. The NHC would continue to track a system regardless of winds as long as the LLC remains closed and intact and I saw that first hand with Jeanne in 2004 and Chris 2006. When classifying now, they have to go by their operational definition of a TD.
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611. WAHA
Take that back; I probably really am one of those users that you have to click on the comment to see it! (I still don't know.)
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
What? You're posting something that looks like it's from the NHC, and it's obvious it's not, no need to get so pist about something. And in reference to that post, 30 MPH winds have yet to be found so you're posting false information. And I understand how the down syndrome thing is inappropriate and I'm sorry about it, but there's no need to call me a smart a**.
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
What? You're posting something that looks like it's from the NHC, and it's obvious it's not, no need to get so pist about something. And in reference to that post, 30 MPH winds have yet to be found so you're posting false information. And I understand how the down syndrome thing is inappropriate and I'm sorry about it, but there's no need to call me a smart a**.


I didnt think it looked like it came from the NHC
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NHC's precip forecast for the Fl Keys was just bumped up from 20% on Tues. and Wed. to 50%.
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Not much else to watch. Just a preseason teaser.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
Quoting Levi32:


You would think at least a yellow circle and a TWO would be warranted for this situation. It's a heck of a lot more impressive than 90L was.


I'm not sure they bother issuing STWOs for preseason code yellows. I mean, I'm pretty sure all years before this they only issued Special Tropical Weather Statements for code reds, but now that they changed up the rules a bit and changed it to Special Outlooks they loosened up just a bit and issued one for a code orange. I think they only issued a yellow for 90L in case it came back.

I really dunno, that's just my guess.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
Quoting Weather456:


I do agree but it would not really make any significant difference if they mentioned it or not. What I define as the big difference is when they designate 91L, if they do, and begin running models on it. I more than often disregard the TPC TWOs.


I would agree, except that I think they should be making people aware of the potential situation by posting a TWO instead of ignoring it during the holiday. Everyone knows that a system with this look on satellite at this time of year means trouble.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
Quoting Levi32:


You would think at least a yellow circle and a TWO would be warranted for this situation. It's a heck of a lot more impressive than 90L was.


like 456, Im not impressed @ all. To be 91L I can understand though cause it does have a surface reflection and 1010mb low but it has no model support and pressures are rising. The west winds you see east of belize are actually just above the surface @ 1,000 ft
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Quoting altesticstorm10:

You've been acting as a real smart@$$ today over it...seriously, don't make those kinds of comments. Especially the one on the last page and the one about the down syndrome. You're what, 13? Well I was 13 when I joined in 2006 and didn't make those kinds of posts then...

Back to the tropics...I feel pre-91L is a tropical depression already...
What? You're posting something that looks like it's from the NHC, and it's obvious it's not, no need to get so pist about something. And in reference to that post, 30 MPH winds have yet to be found so you're posting false information. And I understand how the down syndrome thing is inappropriate and I'm sorry about it, but there's no need to call me a smart a**.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting PcolaDan:


Don't know if we should tell you. The idea of a frostynugs avatar is a little scary. ;>)
Naahh. Post those frosty nugs...It is a holiday...
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Quoting Levi32:


You would think at least a yellow circle and a TWO would be warranted for this situation. It's a heck of a lot more impressive than 90L was.


I do agree but it would not really make any significant difference if they mentioned it or not. What I define as the big difference is when they designate 91L, if they do, and begin running models on it. I more than often disregard the TPC TWOs.
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Quoting ElConando:


Its funny how Tropical depressions usually need 30mph winds to be called by the NHC but yet they can still be called tropical depressions when winds are 10-15mph when weakening.


A retired sailor will always be a sailor...
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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.

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