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Major flooding disaster continues in Central America

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:00 PM GMT on October 23, 2008

One of this hurricane season's biggest disasters continues to unfold in Central America, where the death toll now stands at 39 from ten days of heavy rains triggered by last week's Tropical Depression Sixteen and this week's tropical disturbance 91L. At least 10,000 homes have been destroyed and 250,000 people made homeless by the floods. Hardest hit is Honduras, where 23 are dead and 8 missing in flash floods and landslides. Approximately 60% of the nation's roads have been damaged, and the flooding is the worst since Hurricane Mitch of 1998 killed 10,000 people there. The past week's flooding has also killed four in Guatemala, seven in Costa Rica, four in Nicaragua, and four in El Salvador. In Belize, damage is at least $15 million from the floods, and some areas are seeing flooding worse than was experienced during Hurricanes Mitch and Keith. Satellite estimates suggest that up to a foot of rain has fallen over some parts of Central America in the past week. The heavy damage to crops across the region will likely cause severe food shortages in coming months, and substantial international aid will be required.

Figure 1. Current satellite image of the Western Caribbean. Image credit: NOAA.

The forecast
Rains over the hardest hit areas of Central America have eased in the past day, with only 1-2 inches of rain reported. However, visible satellite loops show that heavy thunderstorm activity continues over the Western Caribbean, and has moved into northeast Honduras and Nicaragua this morning. While there is currently little chance that a tropical cyclone will form in the Western Caribbean over the next five days, persistent low pressure and sporadic heavy rains will continue to affect the region. A strong cold front is expected to push southward into the area next Tuesday or Wednesday, and the tail end of this cold front could serve as the nucleus for a new tropical disturbance that will generate another round of very heavy rains for Honduras and Belize late next week.

Elsewhere in the tropics
No computer models are forecasting tropical storm development anywhere in the Atlantic over the next seven days. The National Weather Service office in Houston has posted the storm surge map for Harris County from Ike. It shows a surge of up to 15 feet affected the east side of Houston.

Thursday update on the Hurricane Ike portlight.org charity effort
A fully packed 26-foot truck left yesterday 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. You can check out the truck's progress 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.

A rough video schedule:

Thursday October 23
Morning: drive to Bridge City, Texas. Noon to 5 pm CDT, unload 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 meal for 400-500 Bolivar Peninsula residents

I'll have an update Friday morning.

Jeff Masters
Where Bolivar Went...
Where Bolivar Went...
The pictures speak for themselves...This is where the homes and other items that were on Bolivar Peninsula ended up after Hurricane Ike's massive surge.

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