Monday May 22 2017

Posted by Tomas on May 13, 2015
  • Hurricane Odile's original projected path shown over the Sea Surface Temperature graphic. Odile passed more than 85 miles further east, directly over southern Baja.
    Hurricane Odile's original projected path shown over the Sea Surface Temperature graphic. Odile passed more than 85 miles further east, directly over southern Baja.
  • Damage from Hurricane Odile forced the cancellation of Independence Day Celebrations
    Damage from Hurricane Odile forced the cancellation of Independence Day Celebrations
  • Damage to west facing buildings was the worst during Odile. Although some looting also occurred in La Paz it was limited to just two or three minor locations
    Damage to west facing buildings was the worst during Odile. Although some looting also occurred in La Paz it was limited to just two or three minor locations
  • This free standing roof over a school yard was turned into a twisted heap of metal
    This free standing roof over a school yard was turned into a twisted heap of metal
  • Odile did extensive damage to Nahl stadium in La Paz
    Odile did extensive damage to Nahl stadium in La Paz
  • However, unlike Cabo San Lucas, most of the damage was limited to downed trees
    However, unlike Cabo San Lucas, most of the damage was limited to downed trees

Unfortunately, we needed to amend this article a little, after the passage of Hurricane Odile. Odile was the most powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in Baja, and the most powerful to affect La Paz as well. Odile was a Category 4 Hurricane just 40 miles to the west of the city's center. The most powerful quadrant, the northeast sector, passed directly through the city and most destruction came from the east. La Paz recovered quickly and we will endure. Cabo San Lucas definitely recieved the brunt of Odile's destruction.

First, when I say "in history"' or "ever" it is with the footnote of "modern history", since 1948. Even such, there were hurricanes that formed and existed for days without knowledge in the Eastern Pacific before the advent of satellite monitoring of the area which began in 1982 (can you believe it!) with the first of the GOES_West series satellites. The first whole earth images sent back were about 100K in the uncompressed resolution about the size of four postage stamps. Today's images come in compressed format and the newest download image is 20Mb or about 200-500X better, (depending on how much dark or single color in the image) 

The Eastern Pacific generates an average of 13.9 storms; the 10-year average is right on track now after a hot spell at the turn of the millennium. As of August 1, 2014, we are on a normal trend right now with 7 named storms, three hurricanes, and two majors, although it was the most powerful start to the season in history with two majors storms leading the season. 

Baja Sur has had an average of one named storm landfall per year since 1948. 

Contrary to popular opinion I ran the statitsics of tropical cyclones since 1948 and found El Nino years do not generate more hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific, in fact they are almost equally distributed between El, La, and Non Nino years  but do result in fewer in the Atlantic basin. 

La Ninas are the best for Baja with a 78% chance of a Baja landfall. El Ninos are 85% (or more than one per El Nino Year.) Nonyears or El Non-yo as I call it, are the worst for Baja with a 108% chance of a landfall. 

Tracks and recording of storms in this region are sketchy and semi-reliable at best, through 1982. At that time, La Paz was the only meteorological readings center in BCS. So plotting was done by barometer math, ship reports and fly-throughs. A dedicated Eastern Pacific satellite came on line in 1989, just in time for Kiko.

 

Click here to see a first generation 1989 GOES 3 Image

Click here to see a current, third generation 2006 GOES 13 Image

 

Only 10 Hurricanes have passed within a 25-mile radius of La Paz since 1948. Five of them since 2003. Ignacio, Marty, John, Henriette and Odile. (Sounds like a 60's folk group) Two tropical storms and three depressions have also passed that close.  

La Paz Hurriances are Rare

Despite the grim reputation earned in the previous decade, since 1948 only 9 Hurricanes have passed within a 25 miles of La Paz since 1948.

Not Named 1958 - Cat 1
Not Named 1959 - Cat 1
Irah 1973 - Cat 1
Kiko 1989 - Cat 3 at landfall, but disintegrated just southeast of La Paz
Fausto 1996 - Cat 1
Ignacio 2003 - Cat 1
Marty 2003
John 2006 - Cat 2
Henriette 2007 - Cat 1
Odile 2014, Cat 4, 40 miles west of La Paz

Henriette passed just outside Espiritu Santos and as you recall was a non-event. John was the last REAL hurricane we had here. Patricia in 2009 on the Pacific side was about as (un)intense as Henriette. 

Category 4 Lisa was the most deadly, killing more than 3,000 people in the border area, but the 'hurricane effects' were mostly too much rain and human error.  

Kiko in 1989 was another that passed south of La Paz by about 50 miles. It is the ONLY 3 to ever make landfall in Baja on East Cape in 1989. 

Fausto passed just about over where CostaBaja is now, and stalled over La Paz. Delivering the most rain of any storm to La Paz, 26" in 48hrs. In Baja weather history that record of a metered weather site was only recently broken by Tropical Storm Javier which went through Mulege, crossed the Sea, Hammered San Carlos and didn't like it, only to return to off Mulege as a depression.  

John in 2006 is the ONLY category 2 to ever pass over La Paz. John also holds the wind speed record for La Paz with 86kts/98mph sustained winds. Wind gusts are not part of my database.  

Although many storms have crossed the peninsula to wreck havoc on the Seaside too, Only Hurricane Olivia got stronger after entering the Sea. The Sea is too narrow north of East Cape to not have a land effect. 

Due to our unique 'La Paz Bucket' geography, La Paz has little risk of huge storm surge, even on high tides. 

An Eastern Pacific Hurricane USUALLY has hurricane force winds extending out only about 30 miles from the eye. Eyes are USUALLY 10-15 miles in diameter. Tropical Storm force winds extend out some 40-70 miles. Storms get smaller as they get stronger, they tighten up. 

Eastern Pacific storms are usually smaller than Caribbean storms, although Ignacio was one of the largest in the Eastern Pacific history. 

Although Juan Cabrillo in 1542 claimed to have had his fleet hammered by a hurricane west of what is now Baja California after sailing north from Isla Cedros, it is highly unlikely that it was anything more than a depression. Only a couple of storms has made landfall in BC as named category systems. 

But Cabrillo didn't have a GPS with built-in barometer either... (Or penicillin which would have saved his life a mere few weeks later.)

To end this all up I'm afraid I have some bad news Baja California Sur in 2016 and good news for La Paz and tropical storms. In 66 years we have had 9 hits. That is one every 7 years. Our last tropical cyclone effect was Odile in 2014, that means we're statistically not do up this year folks!

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