HURRHuracan Mitch hit HondurasICANE MITCHHuracan Mitch


One of the most devastating hurricanes of our time to cripple the country of Honduras was Hurricane Mitch.

Hondurans watched in disbelief as Mitch circled just off the coast, leading no clues as to where it would strike next. To the amazement of all, it took a surprising turn and tore through the very center of the country, destroying major cities such as San Pedro Sula, and even the capital of Tegucigalpa. The flooding was indescribable.

San Pedro Sula's newly completed ultra-modern airport was 6 feet underwater. Its brand new, top of the line computer systems were useless. All equipment would need to be replaced. In outlying areas, people stranded on rooftops, surrounded by water, were helicopter out to safety. Guananja, the most heavily damaged of the Bay Islands, would take years to recover.

Statistics can never truly paint an appropriate picture of the affects of such a hurricane. The impact of the lives lost, the destruction, and the entire economic impact cannot be measured in numbers. We have included those numbers here for those needing them for research purposes.

Rebuilding the country of Honduras took the strength of its entire people, and that of many generous and empathetic donators of money, and more importantly, time. Help poured in from such far away nations as Japan, England, and Russia.

The majority of countries donated to the cause of rebuilding Honduras. Hurricane Mitch's only good outcome was the bonding of humanity, across several lands, to forge ahead and create beauty from chaos.

Following is a brief timeline of the hurricane's life:

22 October: Tropical Depression `Thirteen' forms (winds less than 39 mph), but by the end of the day is upgraded to Tropical Storm Mitch (winds greater than 39 mph) and starts moving northwards.
Hurrane Mitch

24 October: Mitch is upgraded to a hurricane (winds greater than 74 mph).

25 October: Hurricane Mitch turns towards the west.

26 October: Winds near the centre of the hurricane peak at 180 mph.

27 October: Mitch starts to weaken, but turns southwards towards the northern coast of Honduras.

29 October: Mitch is downgraded to a tropical storm and makes landfall over Honduras.

31 October: Mitch is downgraded to a tropical depression whilst moving slowly southwestwards and still producing heavy rain.

01 November: Mitch dissipates as a depression over Guatemala.

03 November: The remnants of Mitch have moved northwards and reform as a tropical storm in the southern Gulf of Mexico.

05 November: Mitch makes landfall on the Gulf coast of southern Florida.

06 November: Mitch is declared `extra-tropical' as it heads northeastwards across the Atlantic.

After becoming an `extra-tropical' storm Mitch raced across the Atlantic and developed into a vigorous depression bringing stormy conditions to the north and west of the UK.Hurricane Mitch

Hurricane Mitch became the joint fourth strongest Atlantic hurricane on record. On 26 October 1998, a central pressure of 905 mb was measured along with wind speeds averaged over one minute of 155 knots (180 mph). Here are the previous records:-

GILBERT (1988) 888 mb
UNNAMED (1935) 892 mb
ALLEN (1980) 899 mb
CAMILLE (1969) 905 mb

It must be noted that these records are for the Atlantic and Caribbean only. Many more hurricanes and typhoons of this strength have formed in the Pacific Ocean over the years.

Whilst Mitch was one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, the winds abated considerably as the storm moved inland. It was actually the huge amount of rainfall deposited by such a slow moving storm, which caused most of the damage. Most rainfall recording instruments would have been destroyed during the storm.

However, some records which survived indicated rainfall totals in Southern Honduras of 25" in 36 hours and 10" in 6 hours between 29 and 31 October*.

* Source: Jon Hellin (Natural Resources Institute) and Corporacion Hondurena de Desarrollo Forestal.

The CostHuracan Mitch

The human cost Huracan Mitchof Hurricane Mitch was enormous. It will probably never be known exactly how many died. The following is an estimated guest of fatalities:

Honduras: 7000 dead, 8300 missing
Nicaragua: 3000 dead, 2200 missing
Guatemala: 258 dead, 121 missing
El Salvador: 272 dead, 100 missing

The economic cost of the hurricane is also huge and will probably be unquantifiable. However, with the change in landscape, destruction of homes, towns, villages and crops it is estimated that it could take decades for the economy to recover in the areas affected.

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