Hurricane Mitch

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Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch at peak intensity

Hurricane Mitch at peak intensity
Duration Oct. 22Nov. 5, 1998
Highest winds 180 mph (290 km/h) sustained
Damages $6–7 billion (2005 dollars)
Fatalities 9,086–18,000 direct
(deadliest Atlantic hurricane since the Great Hurricane of 1780)
Areas affected Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Yucatan Peninsula, south Florida
Part of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Mitch was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever observed, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (290 km/h). Mitch battered Central America from October 22 to November 5, 1998. It was the the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in history, killing as many as 18,000 people. It also caused billions of US dollars in damages.

Storm history

Storm path
Storm path

Hurricane Mitch began life as an African tropical wave that entered the Atlantic on October 10. After moving across the Atlantic and into the Caribbean Sea, the wave began organizing in the southern Caribbean north of Colombia. It was classified as a tropical depression on October 22 while about 415 miles (670 km) south of Kingston, Jamaica. The depression moved westward slowly, and strengthened into Tropical Storm Mitch later that day.

Mitch, still moving slowly, reached hurricane strength on the 24th while 295 miles (475 km) south-southwest of Kingston. Mitch began intensifying rapidly and on October 26 was a Category 5 hurricane. Prior to its wind speed peak, Mitch's central pressure dropped to 905 mbar (hPa), one of the lowest pressures ever recorded in an Atlantic hurricane (see table below).

The eye of the storm traveled nearly parallel to the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. Mitch passed over the Swan Islands on October 27, and weakened slightly as it approached Honduras. As it neared the coast, its forward motion stopped, and Mitch meandered off the northern coast of Honduras until the 29th. Mitch made landfall that day 70 n mi east of la Ceiba as a Category 2 hurricane. Now over land, Mitch continued to weaken, and was classified a tropical depression as it entered Guatemala on the 31st.

The depression dissipated, but a remnant circulation remained. On November 2, this system reorganized over the Bay of Campeche and Mitch again became a named storm while 150 miles (240 km) southwest of Mérida, Yucatán. Tropical Storm Mitch moved over Yucatán, and then across the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Its final landfall was near Naples, Florida as a moderately strong tropical storm on November 5. Mitch became extratropical, and accelerated into the north Atlantic. It was tracked north of Great Britain on November 9.

Ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes

Intensity is measured solely by central pressure

Rank Hurricane Year Minimum pressure
1 Wilma 2005 882 mbar (hPa)
2 Gilbert 1988 888 mbar (hPa)
3 Labor Day 1935 892 mbar (hPa)
4 Rita 2005 897 mbar (hPa)
5 Allen 1980 899 mbar (hPa)
6 Katrina 2005 902 mbar (hPa)
7 Camille 1969 905 mbar (hPa)
8 Mitch 1998 905 mbar (hPa)
9 Ivan 2004 910 mbar (hPa)
10 Janet 1955 914 mbar (hPa)
Source: The Weather Channel


Hurricane Mitch was the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since the Great Hurricane of 1780, displacing the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 as the second-deadliest on record. Eleven thousand people were confirmed dead, and just as many reported missing. Deaths were mostly from flooding and mudslides, when the slow-moving hurricane and then tropical storm dropped nearly 3 feet (900 mm) of rain. Mitch was the second deadly hurricane to hit Honduras since the beginning of modern tropical cyclone observation and forecasting. Hurricane Fifi in 1974 killed an estimated 8,000.

Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, again mostly through flooding and mudslides. Precise damage estimates are not available, but are reported to exceed 5 billion (1998 USD). The bulk of the damage was in Honduras and neighboring Nicaragua, but El Salvador and Guatemala also received significant damage. Mitch was also responsible for the loss of the Fantome Windjammer sailing ship and all 31 crew on October 27 as recorded in the book "The Ship and The Storm" by Jim Carrier (ISBN 007135526X).

The name Mitch was retired in the spring of 1999 and was replaced with Matthew in the 2004 season.

See also

Tropical cyclones of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season















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