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Heavy rains from 91L kill 11 in Honduras

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:41 PM GMT on October 21, 2008

A week of heavy rains over northern Honduras, northern Guatemala, and Belize due to Tropical Depression Sixteen and a Western Caribbean tropical disturbance (91L) have resulted in record flooding and deadly mudslides across the region. In Honduras, a nationwide state of emergency has been declared, and at least eleven people are dead and two missing from the flooding. Two large landslides blocked the Coyol River in western Honduras yesterday, forming a lake 500 feet deep. Engineers are attempting to drain the lake today, but they won't be helped by the weather--91L promises to move little the next two days, and will continue to dump heavy rains on the region. 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 (Figure 1) suggest up to a foot of rain has fallen over the region in the past week.

Figure 1. Estimated rainfall for the 6-day period ending at 8pm EDT Monday October 20, 2008. The darker green colors are rains of about 300mm (twelve inches). Image credit: Navy Research Lab, Monterey.

Visible satellite loops show that the intensity and areal coverage of 91L's heavy thunderstorms have remained about the same the past 12 hours, and are primarily affecting Belize and the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula this morning. The storm is located too close to land to develop into a tropical depression, and wind shear is also rather high, 20 knots.

The forecast for 91L
Wind shear is expected to remain in the 15-25 knot range over the next three days. Steering currents are weak, and little movement is likely through Wednesday. Heavy rains will affect northern Honduras, northern Guatemala, Belize, Mexico's eastern Yucatan Peninsula, western Cuba, and the Cayman Islands through Wednesday. A trough of low pressure swinging across the Midwest U.S. should be able to start pulling 91L northward or northwestward by Thursday. Once 91L enters the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, the trough should swing the storm to the northeast, bringing it across the west coast of Florida between Tampa and the Big Bend region on Friday night. Wind shear will be very high over the Gulf of Mexico this week, in the 30-40 knot range, and 91L is expected to make a transition to a very wet extratropical storm by Friday. The storm should bring sustained winds of 30-35 mph and heavy rains of 2-3 inches to Florida.

Figure 2. Latest satellite image of the Western Caribbean disturbance, 91L.

Tuesday update on the portlight.org charity effort
A fully packed 26-foot truck is scheduled to leave Wednesday from Charleston, South Carolina, loaded with an estimated $200,000 worth of donated goods. The total cost to portlight 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. The goods will be delivered to Bridge City, the Bolivar Peninsula, and Houston. Wunderground member EmmyRose is giving the portlight team free room and board for the three days they will be in Texas.

Among the goods that will be delivered to the Hurricane Ike victims:

-Several cases of camping related supplies from Coleman
-$200 worth of supplies donated by Dick's Sporting Goods
-Several cases of socks from Harriss and Covington Hosiery, Inc.
-One pallet of 50 tents
-Several pallets of mens's, women's, and children's pants from Berle Mfg.
-50 manual wheelchairs donated by Cimarron Correctional Institution in Cimarron Correctional Institution in Cushing, Oklahoma, and distributed through Houston Mayors' Office on Disability Affairs
-Medical/surgical/clinical supplies to resuppy several coastal clinics operated by Gateway to Care
-7 manual hospital beds
-12 geriatric chairs on wheels
-Walkers, canes, crutches, bedside commodes
-Wound care supplies and adult diapers
-Several cases of catheters
-Several working powerchairs
-12 pallets of specifically requested supplies courtesy of WalMart
-Under garments from Haynes
-20 cases of garbage bags from Pactiv (Hefty)
-Enough food to feed a meal next Saturday to 400-500 people on Bolivar Peninsula trying to rebuild their lives. Wunderground member Vortfix has generously donated matching funds for this effort, and would like to personally challenge people to help out in a similar fashion.

In addition, the truck is stopping by Biloxi to pick up a host of cleaning supplies, moldicide, insect repellent, etc. from a group which is closing down after three years of post Katrina work.

If you'd like to make a donation to the effort, visit the portlight.org website or Stormjunkie's blog. There will also be a webcam running with live streaming video as events unfold during the trip: http://portlight.camstreams.com/. It's great to see the wunderground community coming together for this effort!

I'll have an update Wednesday 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.