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 , 3:04 PM GMT on October 13, 2007
A persistent low pressure system extending from the Central American nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Belize northeastward over Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Haiti, and the Bahamas continues to dump heavy rain over much of the region. Heavy rains of at least five inches in northern Haiti triggered floods that killed at least 45 people Friday. The flooding was worst in Cabaret, Haiti, near the north coast. Over 6,000 people fled their homes, and entire neighborhoods were submerged. Thankfully, the heaviest rains have ended in Haiti, and the worst of the flooding is likely past.
Schools were canceled Friday in much of Jamaica due to flooding, and flood waters damaged over 1,000 homes in eastern Cuba. Vista Alegre in Santiago de Cuba reported 12 inches (306 mm) of rain in just 24 hours yesterday. Heavy rain will continue to plague Cuba today. These rains should shift more to the central and eastern part of the island, allowing the hard-hit eastern portion a chance to dry out. Additional rain amounts of five inches are likely today over Cuba.
Connected to this deadly rain-making low pressure system is the large "sleeping giant" low pressure system that has been spinning over the Yucatan region the past week. The sleeping giant has moved to the extreme southwest corner of the Western Caribbean, where Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras meet. Now that the storm can pull in tropical moisture from the ocean, it should begin to awaken. Its close proximity to land will probably prevent a tropical depression from forming today, but most of the models are predicting a slow drift to the north through Sunday, which could give the storm enough clearance from the coast to intensify into a tropical depression on Sunday or Monday. However, most of the models predict the storm will track more northwesterly across the Yucatan Peninsula Sunday night and Monday, which would halt any development. Some of the models are predicting that the storm could turn north once it reaches the Gulf of Mexico and affect the U.S. late next week.
Even if the sleeping giant does not intensify into a tropical depression, this is a dangerous storm for Central America. The storm will probably bring heavy rains in excess of five inches to Belize, Guatemala, northwest Honduras, and Mexico's Yucatan over the the next three days. These heavy rains may also affect the Pacific coast regions of El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, as the counter-clockwise flow of air around the low sucks in air from the Pacific Ocean. These rains may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas. Flooding problems have already been reported in El Salvador and Nicaragua near the Pacific coast, where up to eight inches of rain (203 mm) have fallen in the past 24 hours (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Satellite estimated rainfall for the 24 hours ending at 2 am EDT Saturday. Image credit: Navy Research Lab Monterey.
I'll have an update Sunday by 10 am EDT.
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