BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, November 30, 2007 – It was not a violent wind but a violent shaking – by the strongest earthquake to hit the Caribbean in 244 years – that signalled the official end of a very active hurricane season.
The season, which runs June 1 to November 30, saw 16 cyclones forming of which 14 became named storms, five hurricanes, and two major hurricanes which touched almost every country in the Caribbean basin, the US, and Central America, leaving 252 dead and at least US$600m in damage.
The greatest impact this year were felt in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States had forecast 13-16 named storms, 8-10 hurricanes, and 4-6 major hurricanes. Professor William Gray’s forecast was for 17 named storms, nine hurricanes, five major hurricanes. And the Benfield Hazard Research Centre in Britain forecast 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
First killer hurricane
The season became the 23rd on record – since 1851 – that two or more named storms formed before the end of June. By the height of the season in August, the number of systems was running slightly below the historical average for August the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) reported.
However that month recorded its first killer hurricane – Dean – which was responsible for about 40 deaths across the Caribbean but the largest tolls in Mexico and Haiti where flooding and mudslides claimed lives.
In September, nine systems formed of which eight became named storms and three became hurricanes. However, the NHC said that though the numbers were above average for a September, they were short lived.
“As a result, the accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index – a measure of the combined strength and duration of named storms and hurricanes – was below average and was the lowest total observed in the Atlantic basin since 1997,” the centre added.
Even though the punch was low, the highest number of death occurred in September.
‘Weak’ but dangerous
Hurricane Felix was responsible for 101 deaths in Nicaragua and Honduras with more than 100 others reported missing.
It caused major damage in north-eastern Nicaragua, where it made landfall, destroying or damaging numerous building along the coast. Additional damage inland was due to flooding.
Felix was also responsible for minor damage in Grenada, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.
Also in September, Humberto made landfall in Texas and moved over Lafayette in Louisiana as a weak tropical depression where it was responsible for killing one person and leaving about US$500m in damage.
Lorenzo was a storm which weakened into a tropical depression and moved over Mexico where it was responsible for the death of three people killed in a mudslide triggered by heavy rains.
The remainder of the cyclones to form did so in October and the final one of the season – Noel – dumped heavy rains on an already saturated Haiti and Dominican Republic triggering more flooding and mudslides that claimed about 105 lives. It also affect Jamaica and The Bahams where one death each was reported.
Noel’s preliminary damage cost has been put at US$100m in Haiti alone.
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