Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:20 PM GMT on August 23, 2007
Dean's rampage across the Caribbean is history. Dean made its final landfall yesterday as a 100-mph Category 2 hurricane near the tourism and fishing town of Tecolutla, Mexico. A slogan one could have used throughout Dean's tour of the Caribbean is, "it could have been much worse". The storm hit halfway between the most populous cities in the region--Tampico, population 300,000, and Veracruz, population 444,000. The region Dean hit is known as Mexico's Emerald coast, and is dotted by villages, cattle ranches, and uncrowded beaches. The storm weakened rapidly as it moved inland, and passed about 75 miles north of Mexico city, dropping heavy rains along its path. The remains of Dean are expected to make it to the Pacific ocean this weekend, then get pulled northwards in to Arizona, potentially bringing extra rainfall there, but not flooding. Wunderblogger Randy Bynon has a blog with some great photos of his flight into Dean with the Hurricane Hunters yesterday.
Insured damage from Dean to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula was estimated at $400 million by one insurance company. Using the the usual rule of thumb that total damage is double the insured damage, the Yucatan suffered $800 million in damage. The total bill to Mexico from Dean will likely exceed $1 billion, when the damages from the storm's second landfall is factored in. Dean fortunately did little damage to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that provide about one third of Mexico's cash.
Once again, Mexico came out of a major hurricane will no deaths reported. I am very impressed with how well Mexico's civil defense system has performed during the past three hurricanes. Mexico also had no deaths from Hurricane Emily, which hit the country twice--once as a Category 4 storm near Cozumel, then as a Category 3 hurricane south of the Texas border. Hurricane Wilma, which clobbered Cancun and the northern tip of the Yucatan for three days as a Category 4 hurricane, killed only four people. The low loss of life from these three major hurricanes is something Mexicans can be truly proud of.
Figure 1. Flooding on the island of Dominica from Hurricane Dean. Image credit: Mike Theiss.
How some of the other countries on Dean's list fared:
About 5% of the buildings in northern Belize were damaged, and there was some destruction to the papaya crop. Electricity is nearly restored, and water was never lost.
It could have been very, very much worse on Jamaica. Dean missed the island, bringing Category 1 and 2 hurricane conditions to just the southern portion of Jamaica. According to articles in the Jamaica Observer and Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica is making progress in the wake of the estimated $1.5 - $3 billion in damage left by Dean--the second most expensive hurricane in Jamaican history, next to the $4 billion in damage wrought by Hurricane Gilbert. Hurricane Dean cut water to 80% of the island, but by Wednesday, 48 hours after storm, water had been restored to 45% of the island. Half of the 248 roads blocked by the storm had been cleared, by Wednesday, and another 89 roads wad been opened for one lane traffic. Cruise ships had returned to the mostly undamaged northern part of the island. All of the hotels on the island are open except one. Most of the island is still without power, but 50% of Jamaica should have power by the weekend. There is significant damage on the South Coast 69 Kv transmission line and severe damage to the power transmission infrastructure in the east and south, and it may be many weeks before power is restored to the entire island. Cell phone communication is available on 70% of the island.
Only three deaths were reported on Jamaica, which is far fewer than the 17 deaths suffered during Hurricane Ivan and the 45 deaths from Hurricane Gilbert. Better building codes and better hurricane awareness and planning are to credit for this low death toll. Jamaica has done a great job preparing for and recovering from this storm.
There were media reports of a 114 mph sustained wind measured in Kingston during Dean, which I though sounded unreasonably high. The Kingston airport measured top sustained winds of 81 mph. I asked Jeff Meeks, who weathered the storm in Kingston, about this. He said his suburb of Kingston--Barbican--had sustained winds of 30 mph, gusting to 63 mph, with 5.24 inches of rain. He further commented,
There was no possibility of 114mph sustained winds in any part of Kingston. The damage is just not there. Further I have another friend who also had a high gust of just 65mph. He is also located on the outskirts of Kingston. Norman Manley International is at the southern most extent of Kingston and would have been closest to the nearest approach of Dean and may have had higher winds but the damage there is also minimal. In truth Ivan from 2004 gave Kingston much more damage.
Haiti suffered the highest death toll from Dean, eleven. Several hundred houses were damaged or destroyed on the south coast, and there was some moderate damage to agriculture. It could have been much worse. Haiti was lucky Dean moved by so quickly, and was not able to dump devastating amounts of rain on the country.
The tourist industry in the Lesser Antilles was not significantly affected by Dean. All of the hotels on the affected islands are now open, and little damage occurred to the hotels. However, agriculture suffered tremendously. The banana crop was wiped out on St. Lucia, Martinique, and Dominica, and was 80% destroyed on Guadaloupe. The hardest hit island, Martinique, is estimating storm costs of $270 million. Phone service was knocked out to 50% of the island, and was still out to 35% of the island on Wednesday. St.Lucia is reporting $18 million in total damage, and Dominica is reporting $98 million in damage to infrastructure (agricultural damage may be another $100 million).
Wunderground Ultimate Chase blogger Mike Theiss was in Dominica for Hurricane Dean, and he's written a detailed account of what is was like to go through he hurricane, complete with some great photos.
After Dean, what next?
An area of disturbed area has developed just west of Jamaica in the western Caribbean, associated with a tropical wave moving west-northwest at 15-20 mph. The wave is under 20 knots of wind shear, and I don't expect any development to occur. None of the reliable hurricane forecast models are calling for anything to develop in the next seven days.
I'll have a new blog Friday morning.
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