Odile Dumping Heavy Rains on Southwest U.S.; Edouard Becomes a Major Hurricane

By Dr. Jeff Masters
Published: 3:28 PM GMT on September 16, 2014

Residents of Mexico's Baja Peninsula are picking up the pieces after devastating Hurricane Odile smashed ashore at Cabo San Lucas near 12:45 am EDT Monday as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds. Odile was the strongest hurricane on record to hit the Baja Peninsula, tied with Hurricane Olivia of 1967. Odile's powerful winds caused heavy damage on the southern tip of Baja, where the tourist meccas of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo lie. The airports in both cities are closed, with the San Jose del Cabo airport (7th busiest in Mexico) closed until September 22, and the Cabo San Lucas airport may be closed until October. Fortunately, no deaths are being attributed to the hurricane--a tribute to the excellence of Mexico's civil defense system.

Figure 1. The Cabo San Lucas Airport was heavily damaged by Hurricane Odile, and will remain closed until October. Photo posted to Twitter by Matthew Perry ‏@perrymatt ‪(pic.twitter.com/WK6SJLyJXL)‬.

Odile's heavy rains
NASA's TRMM satellite estimated that Odile produced rainfall rates of 188.4 mm (7.4 inches) per hour one hour before landfall. La Paz reported 6.58" (168.9 mm) in 24 hours ending at 3:45 pm EDT Monday. A Personal Weather Station in Santa Rosa, about 3 miles inland from the coastal city of San Jose del Cabo, measured 27.36" (695 mm) of rain--though this measurement may not be reliable, since it came from a personal weather station. The annual average rainfalll in Cabo San Lucas is just 8.7" (221 mm).

Figure 2. NASA's TRMM satellite passed directly above Hurricane Odile on September 15, 2014 at 0344 UTC, about an hour before the hurricane hit Baja California near Cabo San Lucas. The image above shows rainfall derived from TRMM's Precipitation Radar (PR) and Microwave Imager (TMI) instruments overlaid on a GOES-WEST enhanced Infrared image received at 0330 UTC. TRMM PR showed that Odile contained intense thunderstorms dropping rain at a rate of over 188.4 mm ( about 7.4 inches) per hour in the hurricane's nearly circular eye wall. Image credit: NASA.

Forecast for Odile
Interaction with the rough terrain of the Baja Peninsula knocked Odile down to Category tropical storm with 55 mph winds as of 11 am EDT Tuesday, and the storm will continue to steadily weaken as it heads north across the Gulf of California and makes a second landfall along the northeast coast of the Gulf on Wednesday. Heavy rains will be the main threat from Odile. The storm's circulation is bringing up plenty of moisture from the Tropical Pacific, and the remnant circulation from Odile will combine with this moisture to create flooding rains over Northern Mexico and the Southwest U.S. most of the week. The 06Z Tuesday run of the GFDL model put Eastern Arizona in the highest risk area for heavy precipitation, while the official 7-day precipitation forecast from NOAA shows Southeast Arizona and Southwest New Mexico at highest risk of flooding rains of 4 - 8". A flash flood watch is posted for Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona. An outer spiral band of Odile was over Southeast Arizona on Tuesday morning, and produced a thunderstorm between Tucson and Phoenix whose high winds derailed a train near Picacho.

Figure 3. Predicted rainfall amounts for the 5-day period beginning at 2 am EDT Tuesday September 16, 2014 from Hurricane Odile, from the GFDL hurricane model. A swath from the Mexican coast of the Gulf of California through Eastern Arizona is predicted to get 4 - 8" of rain. Image credit: NOAA/GFDL.

Tropical Storm Polo a threat to Southwest Mexico
The Pacific coast of Mexico has a new heavy rainfall threat to be concerned with--Tropical Storm Polo, which formed about 360 miles SSE of Acapulco at 5 am EDT Tuesday. Polo is expected to head northwest towards the Pacific coast of Mexico on Tuesday and Wednesday, and will be capable of bringing heavy rains of 4 - 8 inches of rain to the coast of Southwest Mexico near Manzanillo Wednesday through Friday. While most of our reliable forecast models show Polo will miss making landfall, the reliable European model has the storm hitting Mexico near Manzanillo on Thursday, while the UKMET model shows Polo coming very close to the tip of the Baja Peninsula on Sunday. The 11 am EDT WInd Probability Forecast from NHC gives Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula a 31% chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds from Polo, and a 2% chance of hurricane-force winds. Satellite loops show that Polo has plenty of heavy thunderstorms, but the storm is just beginning to get organized.

A remarkably active 2014 Eastern Pacific hurricane season
Polo's formation brings the 2014 tally for the Eastern Pacific east of 140°W to 16 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 7 intense hurricanes. An average Eastern Pacific hurricane season sees 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes during the entire year, and we are close to tying the record of eight intense hurricanes in a season set in 1992. What's really remarkable about the 2014 season is the proportion of named storms that have intensified to major hurricane strength: 8 of 15, or more than 50%. That's really difficult to do, particularly when the cold water wakes left behind by previous major hurricanes chill down the sea surface temperatures. Wunderground member wxgeek723 put together this list of other notable hurricane events in the Eastern Pacific in 2014:

-The strongest May hurricane on record: Category 4 Amanda (155 mph winds)
-Persistent Genevieve, which visited three basins and blossomed into a Category 5 monster
-Twin hurricanes Iselle and Julio threatening Hawaii
-Iselle, with 60 mph winds, the strongest named storm on record to hit the Big Island of Hawaii
-Karina, the seventh longest-lived Eastern Pacific storm
-Category 5 Marie (160 mph winds), the sixth strongest Eastern Pacific hurricane on record
-Category 3 Norbert, which put a sliver of California in its TS cone and fed into Phoenix's wettest day in history
-Odile, the strongest hurricane to ever hit Baja and the twelfth strongest Eastern Pacific hurricane on record

Figure 4. MODIS satellite image of Hurricane Edouard, taken at approximately 12 pm EDT Monday September 15, 2014. At the time, Edouard was a Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 105 mph. Image credit: NASA.

Edouard becomes the Atlantic's first major hurricane
The Atlantic's first major hurricane since Hurricane Sandy of 2012 is Hurricane Edouard, which intensified into a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds at 11 am EDT Tuesday. Edouard is heading north-northwest at 13 mph over the Central Atlantic, and is not a threat to any land areas. Satellite images show that Edouard remains well-organized with a prominent eye. Edouard is the first Atlantic major hurricane since Hurricane Sandy made landfall over Cuba as a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds on October 25, 2012.

New African tropical wave may develop this weekend
There is a new tropical wave predicted to come off the coast of Africa on Wednesday that all three of our reliable genesis models are predicting could develop near the Cape Verde Islands by Friday or Saturday. In their 8 am EDT Tuesday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave the wave 2-day and 5-day odds of development of 0% and 20%, respectively.

Figure 5. MODIS satellite image of Typhoon Kalmaegi over China just north of Hainan Island, taken at approximately 12:30 am EDT Tuesday September 16, 2014. At the time, Kalmaegi was a Category 1 storm with top sustained winds of 80 mph. Image credit: NASA.

Typhoon Kalmaegi hits China
In the Western Pacific, Category 1 Typhoon Kalmaegi hit China just north of Hainan Island near 2 am EDT Tuesday as a Category 1 storm with 80 mph winds. The typhoon hit Luzon Island in the Philippines on Sunday, also as a Category 1 storm with 80 mph winds. The typhoon killed ten people in the Philippines, eight of them when a ferry capsized. Kalmaegi is expected to make a third landfall in northern Vietnam as a tropical storm or minimal Category 1 typhoon around 1 pm EDT Tuesday.

Hurricane expert Steve Gregory has a more detailed look at the tropics in his Tuesday afternoon post.

Jeff Masters

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About The Author
Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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