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Flooding eases in hard-hit Central America

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:35 PM GMT on October 22, 2008

The rains over northern Honduras, northern Guatemala, and Belize due to Western Caribbean tropical disturbance 91L have diminished over the past day, with only an additional 1-3 inches of rain falling over the hardest hit areas. River levels have peaked and are now on the decline over most of the affected region (Figure 1). A nationwide state of emergency continues in Honduras, though, where at least thirteen people died in the flooding. In Belize, damage is already estimated in the ten of millions, and some areas are seeing flooding worse than was experienced during Hurricanes Mitch and Keith. In northern Guatemala, at least 70 towns have been cut off by flood waters and a state of emergency has been declared. Satellite estimates suggest that up to a foot of rain has fallen over the region in the past week.

Figure 1. Water level in the Rio Humuya river in northern Honduras this week. The water level rose from three feet to 21 feet as a result of heavy rains from 91L. Image credit: NOAA.

Visible satellite loops show that the intensity and areal coverage of 91L's heavy thunderstorms have diminished significantly over the past day, and the storm is not a threat to develop into a tropical depression. Wind shear is a high 20 knots, and expected to increase over 91L as the storm drifts northwestward over the Yucatan Peninsula today. By Friday, the moisture from 91L should get sucked into an extratropical storm expected to develop in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Panhandle's coast. This storm will hit the Panhandle Friday night and Saturday morning, bringing sustained winds of 25-30 mph to the coastal waters, and 1-2 inches of rain.

Elsewhere in the tropics
An area of disturbed weather in association with a tropical wave has developed in the south central Caribbean, a few hundred miles east of the northeast coast of Nicaragua. This region is moving west at 10-15 mph, and is under about 10-20 knots of wind shear. Some slow development is likely before the disturbance comes ashore over northeastern Nicaragua and northeastern Honduras Thursday morning. Heavy rains of 3-6" can be expected in those regions on Thursday, but the disturbance does not have time to develop into a tropical depression. No computer models are forecasting tropical storm development anywhere in the Atlantic over the next seven days.

Wednesday update on the Hurricane Ike portlight.org charity effort
A fully packed 26-foot truck has left today from Charleston, South Carolina, loaded with an estimated $200,000 worth of donated goods for the good citizens of Bridge City, the Bolivar Peninsula, and Houston. I checked out the truck's progress this morning using the streaming video available at http://portlight.camstreams.com/. There's also a chat feature there one can use. The total cost to portlight for this week's charity effort will be approximately $5000-$7000, which will cover truck rental, fuel, lodging, and food. An additional $1750 will be spent for building materials for rebuilding over a dozen ramps for disabilities service organizations, so that clients have access to services. Visit the portlight.org website to engage in the or Stormjunkie's blog for more updates on the effort. It's great to see the wunderground community coming together for this effort!

A rough video schedule:

Wednesday,  October 22
10:30A EDT, arrive FODAC, load DME and other stuff (2 hours), then drive to Biloxi, MS ( 7 hours). Upon arrival there, more supplies will be loaded.

Thursday October 23
Noon to 5P CDT, unloading at Bridge City and Chambers County

Friday October 24
Repatriating WU blogger BillyBadBird to Bolivar Peninsula to begin rebuilding his life there

Saturday  October 25
Noon - 3P CDT, free dinner for 400-500 Bolivar Peninsula residents

I'll have an update Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.