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May-June 2010

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The 2009 Eastern North Pacific Hurricane Season: A Return to Normal Activity

Tropical cyclone activity during the 2009 eastern North Pacific hurricane season was near average. Seventeen named storms formed, including seven hurricanes, of which four became major hurricanes.1 Although the number of tropical storms and major hurricanes was near average, the number of hurricanes was slightly below average. The total of four major hurricanes was the highest since 2006, the last time mature El Niño conditions were observed over the equatorial tropical Pacific. Three tropical cyclones affected land during the 2009 hurricane season—Hurricane Andres, Hurricane Jimena, and Tropical Storm Rick. In terms of the accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index, 2009 had about 93 percent of the long-term median value. Many of the tropical cyclones formed farther west than normal, closer to cooler waters and enhanced westerly vertical wind shear at higher latitudes. This contributed to a large number of weak and short-lived systems over the central and western part of the basin.

Hurricane Andres

Andres originated from a tropical wave that entered the eastern North Pacific on June 16. As the wave moved slowly westward, shower and thunderstorm activity gradually increased, and an area of low pressure formed along the wave on June 20 about 175 miles south-southeast of Acapulco, Mexico. The low became better defined on June 21, and became a tropical depression early2 that day. The depression initially moved westward and strengthened into a tropical storm six hours later, while centered about 180 miles south-southwest of Acapulco. Andres then turned northwestward and continued on that course for the remainder of its existence. Andres steadily intensified during the next 36 hours, and the cyclone attained hurricane strength with an estimated peak intensity of 80 mph early on June 23 while located about 80 miles southwest of Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexico.

As Andres moved nearly parallel to the southwestern coast of Mexico, northeasterly shear increased, and weakening began. Andres passed about 50–60 miles off of the southwestern coast of Mexico before weakening to a tropical storm late that day. Shortly thereafter, Andres began moving over cooler waters and into a more stable air mass. Andres weakened to a tropical depression by 12:00 UTC June 24 while centered about 100 miles west of Cabo Corrientes, Mexico. The depression then turned northward and became an open trough of low pressure late that day.

The highest sustained winds associated with Andres were 35 mph with a gust to 45 mph at Manzanillo, Mexico, late on June 24. Andres was responsible for one death in Mexico. Press reports indicate that damage along the southwestern coast of Mexico was minimal, although heavy rainfall from Andres and its precursor disturbance flooded homes in a portion of Acapulco, which resulted in the evacuation of about 200 people.

Tropical Storm Blanca

Blanca formed from a tropical wave that entered the eastern North Pacific basin on June 29. By July 4, deep convection became more consolidated a couple of hundred miles south of Manzanillo, Mexico, and the system became a tropical depression while centered about 435 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, early on July 6. Moving northwesterward, the system strengthened into a tropical storm about six hours after forming, and Blanca is estimated to have reached its maximum intensity of 50 mph early on July 7. Shortly thereafter, the storm reached waters with sea surface temperatures below 27°C and began to gradually weaken. Blanca became a tropical depression by July 8 and degenerated into a remnant low early on July 9 while centered about 800 miles west of Cabo San Lucas.

Hurricane Carlos

Carlos originated from an area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms associated with a tropical wave that entered the eastern North Pacific on July 4. Convection increased on July 8 as the wave moved westward, and a tropical depression formed early on July 10 about 900 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California.

The depression moved westward along 10°N over warm waters in an environment of low wind shear and became a tropical storm later on July 10. Steady intensification of this small tropical cyclone continued, and Carlos became a hurricane with an intensity of 85 mph early on July 12. Shortly thereafter, Carlos weakened quickly and became a 50-mph tropical storm early on July 13. A new round of intensification then began, and the cyclone reached a peak intensity of 105 mph early on July 15, becoming the strongest hurricane so far south in the eastern North Pacific since reliable records began in 1971.

Carlos encountered strong shear as it approached 130°W on July 15, resulting in an abrupt deterioration of the cloud pattern, and the cyclone weakened rapidly to a tropical depression in about a day. The circulation of Carlos dissipated early on July 17 about 2,185 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California.

Caption: Hurricane Carlos.

Caption: Hurricane Carlos.

Tropical Storm Dolores

Dolores formed from a tropical wave that entered the eastern Pacific basin on July 8. The wave moved slowly westward, and a large but poorly defined low pressure area developed from it several hundred miles south of Acapulco on July 11. The low became better organized on July 14 as the system moved west-northwestward, and a tropical depression formed early on July 15 about 700 miles west-southwest of Manzanillo.

Although the depression was located in an environment of southwesterly vertical wind shear, it strengthened to a tropical storm about 12 hours after genesis as it moved generally northwestward. Dolores reached a peak intensity of 60 mph early on July 16 about 620 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The associated convection dissipated shortly afterward, and Dolores degenerated into a gale-force non-tropical low late on July 16. The sustained winds fell below gale force six hours later.

“Three tropical cyclones affected land during the 2009 hurricane season”

Tropical Storm Enrique

Enrique developed from a tropical wave that crossed Central America on July 30. Convection gradually increased over the next few days, and a tropical depression formed late on August 3, centered about 665 miles southwest of Manzanillo. The depression became a tropical storm six hours later. Enrique moved west-northwestward and then northwestward over the next few days, steering between a subtropical mid-level ridge to its north and the circulation associated with Hurricane Felicia to its west. After strengthening quickly, Enrique began to move over cooler waters on August 5, which, in combination with northerly shear, caused slow weakening. Enrique weakened to a tropical depression early on August 7 about 910 miles west-southwest of Punta Eugenia, Mexico, and degenerated into a remnant low early on August 8.

“Flooded homes resulted in the evacuation of about 200 people”

Hurricane Felicia

Felicia's genesis can be traced to a tropical wave that moved into the eastern North Pacific on July 30. After the wave passed 110°W on August 1, convection increased and showed signs of organization, and a tropical depression formed late on August 3. The depression became a tropical storm early on August 4 while centered about 1,140 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. In an environment of low shear and warm ocean waters, Felicia began a period of rapid intensification and reached hurricane strength late on August 4.

On a northwestward course, Felicia continued to intensify rapidly and reached its estimated peak intensity of 145 mph early on August 6 while located about 1,685 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii. Felicia weakened as it moved on a west-northwesterly course, entering the central North Pacific basin as a 90-mph hurricane midday on August 8. Early the next day, Felicia encountered increasing westerly vertical wind shear, and weakened to a tropical storm while centered about 630 miles east of Hilo. Continuing on a westward course, Felicia weakened to a tropical depression around midday August 11 while centered 145 miles northeast of Hilo, and became a remnant low late that day.

Felicia generated large swells as it approached the Hawaiian Islands, resulting in surf heights of six to ten feet. Moisture associated with the remnant low of Felicia caused widespread heavy rainfall and some freshwater flooding on the Big Island of Hawaii. The heaviest rainfall totals associated with the remnants of Felicia were 14.63 inches at Oahu Forecast National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Oahu, 13.46 inches at Mount Waialeale on the island of Kauai, and 6.28 inches at West Wailuaki on the island of Maui.

Hurricane Guillermo

Guillermo was spawned by a tropical wave that entered the eastern Pacific on August 5. Thunderstorms increased near the circulation center late on August 11, and it is estimated that a tropical depression formed by 12:00 UTC August 12, located about 655 miles south-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The depression became a tropical storm 12 hours later. Guillermo intensified to a major hurricane in about 48 hours, as it moved westward to west-northwestward. A banded eye was noted in visible satellite images late on August 13, and Guillermo became a hurricane on August 14. Guillermo became a major hurricane on August 15, reaching an estimated peak intensity of 125 mph early that day while located about 1,490 miles west of the southern tip of Baja California. Slow weakening began later on August 15 due to decreasing sea-surface temperatures, and Guillermo became a tropical storm early on August 17. By late on August 19, Guillermo degenerated into a remnant low while centered about 630 miles north of Hawaii.

Tropical Storm Hilda

Hilda appears to have originated from a tropical wave that entered the eastern Pacific on August 13. A low-level circulation formed around midday on August 21. However, thunderstorm activity remained disorganized until around midday on August 22, when it is estimated that a tropical depression formed about 1,300 miles east-southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Although the cyclone was situated in an environment of strong northeasterly vertical shear, it became a tropical storm about six hours after genesis.

Strengthening was limited by persistent northeasterly shear as Hilda moved westward, crossing into the Central Pacific basin around midday on August 23 with an intensity of 45 mph. Hilda reached its peak intensity of 65 mph early on August 24, when it was located about 850 miles southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The cyclone moved generally westward and encountered an environment that was less conducive to strengthening over the next couple of days. Early on August 25 weakening began, and Hilda's winds decreased to around 50 mph late that day. Hilda became a tropical depression early on August 27, while centered about 500 miles south-southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The depression degenerated into a remnant low late on August 28.

Tropical Storm Ignacio

Ignacio formed from the same tropical wave that spawned Tropical Storm Ana in the Atlantic basin. The southern portion of the wave entered the eastern North Pacific south of Mexico on August 20. A broad area of low pressure formed on August 22 south of Cabo Corrientes, as the system moved west-northwestward, and a tropical depression formed late on August 24 about 690 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The depression became a tropical storm six hours later. Ignacio reached its estimated maximum intensity of 50 mph early on July 25 and maintained the same strength for a day or so. Ignacio then weakened as it moved northwestward over cooler waters and degenerated into a remnant low early on August 27 before dissipating on August 29.

Hurricane Jimena

Jimena was spawned by a tropical wave that moved into the eastern Pacific on August 25. Associated shower activity increased on August 27, and early the next day a low pressure area formed about 300 miles southeast of Acapulco. A tropical depression formed late on August 28 about 220 miles south of Acapulco.

The cyclone became a tropical storm early on August 29 and a hurricane later that day. Strengthening continued until Jimena reached an estimated intensity of 140 mph on August 30. At that time, development was interrupted by an eyewall replacement cycle. The cycle finished early on August 31, and Jimena again strengthened, reaching a peak intensity of 155 mph later that day.

Late on August 31, Jimena turned north-northwestward. The combination of increasing vertical wind shear, lower sea surface temperatures, and a second eyewall replacement cycle caused Jimena to weaken early on September 1. Steady weakening and a north-northwestward motion continued until Jimena made landfall over Isla Santa Margarita, Baja California del Sur, about midday on September 2, with an estimated intensity of 105 mph—Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. A second landfall occurred an hour later at Puerto San Carlos, Baja California del Sur.

The center of Jimena briefly re-entered the Pacific before turning northward and making a third landfall just east of San Juanico in Baja California del Sur late on September 2. Jimena continued northward across Baja California while weakening to a tropical storm, and the center emerged into the central Gulf of California early on September 3. Steering currents collapsed, and Jimena drifted erratically over the Gulf for the next 24 hours while weakening to a depression early on September 4. The depression began moving southwestward later that day and made its final landfall near Santa Rosalia, Baja California del Sur, late that day. The depression weakened to a remnant low as it crossed Baja California, and then dissipated over the Pacific on September 5.

“Severe freshwater flooding occurred on the Mexican mainland”

Media reports indicate that Jimena caused widespread damage on the central and southern Baja California peninsula. The cities of Ciudad Constitución, Mulege, and Loreto were hard hit, along with many smaller towns near the track of the center. Severe freshwater flooding occurred on the Mexican mainland near Guaymas in Sonora, where the maximum reported storm-total rainfall was 26.46 inches. However, this total's accuracy is in doubt because it was double that reported at the nearby station of Empalme. While there were no reports of sustained hurricane-force winds, hurricane conditions likely affected much of the Pacific coast of Baja California south of San Juanico. Storm chasers in Puerto San Carlos reported a pressure of 973.0 mb as the eye of Jimena passed over that town.

Reports suggest that the number of damaged buildings was in the tens of thousands; however, no monetary damage figures were available as of this writing. One death was attributed to Jimena—a drowning due to freshwater flooding in Mulege, Baja California del Sur.

Tropical Storm Kevin

Kevin originated from a tropical wave that entered the eastern Pacific on August 23. An area of low pressure formed along the wave on August 27, and a tropical depression formed from the disturbance around midday on August 29, centered about 1,025 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. As the cyclone moved west-northwestward, the depression became a tropical storm late that day while centered about 1,045 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California.

Kevin moved slowly west-northwestward around the time of genesis, but turned sharply northward on August 29 and maintained this heading for the remainder of its life cycle. Despite a somewhat unfavorable environment, Kevin reached an estimated peak intensity of 50 mph before midday on August 30 but began to slowly weaken thereafter. Kevin became a tropical depression early on August 31, as it turned toward the north-northwest and northwest. The depression degenerated into a remnant low late on September 1 while centered about 840 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California.

“[Rick became] the second-strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Pacific east of the International Dateline”

Hurricane Linda

Hurricane Linda developed from a tropical wave that moved off the west coast of Africa on August 18. The northern portion of the wave developed into Atlantic Tropical Storm Danny east of the Bahamas on August 26, while the southern part entered the eastern Pacific basin on August 28. Low pressure developed along the wave on September 6, and a tropical depression formed early on September 7 while centered about 1,130 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The depression strengthened into a tropical storm about six hours later.

Linda moved very slowly westward over the next day, and the storm gradually intensified and became a hurricane late on September 9, while centered about 1,315 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. Linda reached an estimated peak intensity of 80 mph before midday on September 10. Subsequently, shear and lower sea surface temperatures led to weakening, and Linda became a tropical storm early on September 11. After losing all deep convection, the cyclone degenerated into a remnant low early on September 12 while centered about 1,385 miles west of the southern tip of Baja California.

Tropical Storm Marty

Marty originated from a tropical wave that entered the eastern North Pacific on September 10. A broad area of low pressure formed along the wave around midday on September 15, and the system is estimated to have become a tropical depression early on September 16 while located about 375 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California.

Despite moderate southeasterly shear, the cyclone slowly strengthened and reached tropical storm strength about 12 hours later, while located 330 miles south-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. Weak steering currents caused Marty's forward speed to slow, and it began to weaken on September 17 as it ingested drier and more stable low-level air and encountered increasing southwesterly shear associated with a mid- to upper-level trough near Baja California. The weakening trend accelerated after Marty reached cooler waters, but the storm maintained tropical storm strength until late on September 18. Devoid of deep convection, Marty became a remnant low the following day.

Tropical Storm Nora

Nora originated from a tropical wave that entered the eastern North Pacific on September 15. A low developed along the wave axis on September 22, and by early on September 23, a tropical depression formed about 645 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The depression strengthened to a tropical storm six hours later as it moved west-northwestward to northwestward around the southwestern periphery of a subtropical ridge. In a low wind shear environment and over warm waters, Nora steadily strengthened over the next 18 hours and reached an estimated peak intensity of 60 mph early on September 24, while centered about 690 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. Strong southwesterly shear caused the system to weaken as it turned westward, and Nora became a tropical depression early on September 25 about 815 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. It degenerated into a remnant low six hours later.

Tropical Storm Olaf

Olaf's precursor wave and an associated elongated area of low pressure entered the eastern North Pacific on September 24. The low was close to becoming a tropical depression on September 30 before the associated deep convection dissipated. However, convection returned that night in the northern portion of the large circulation, causing the center to reform farther north. A tropical depression developed around midday October 1, when the system was located about 545 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California.

The depression turned northward and became a tropical storm while moving around the western periphery of a mid-level ridge, and reached a peak intensity of about 45 mph around midday on October 2. Olaf turned sharply eastward early the next day and weakened due to cooler waters and increasing southerly shear. The cyclone weakened to a tropical depression early on October 3, and 12 hours later degenerated into a remnant low about 155 miles west-southwest of Cabo San Lázaro, Mexico.

Caption: Tropical Storm Bianca of 2009 just after being named.

Caption: Tropical Storm Bianca of 2009 just after being named.

Caption: Tropical Storm Dolores

Caption: Tropical Storm Dolores

Tropical Storm Patricia

Patricia formed from a tropical wave that crossed Central America on October 6. A broad low pressure area formed a couple of hundred miles south of Manzanillo on October 9. The system became a tropical depression late on October 11 about 400 miles south-southeast of the southern tip of Baja California.

The system reached tropical storm intensity about six hours after genesis. Patricia gradually strengthened over the next day while moving generally north-northwestward over very warm waters and experiencing light easterly wind shear. The cyclone reached an estimated peak intensity of 60 mph early on October 13 while centered about 220 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California. Moderate southeasterly vertical shear and a more stable air mass then caused Patricia to suddenly weaken. Deep convection dissipated late on October 13, and the cyclone became a remnant low early on October 14, while centered just 30 miles east-southeast of the southern tip of Baja California.

Hurricane Rick

Rick developed from a tropical wave that entered the eastern North Pacific on October 12, and the system became a tropical depression late on October 15 while centered about 320 miles south-southwest of the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The cyclone rapidly intensified almost immediately after forming while it moved west-northwestward south of a deep-layer ridge of high pressure. The cyclone reached tropical storm intensity within six hours and hurricane strength within 24 hours of genesis. Rapid intensification continued for another 36 hours, and Rick attained major hurricane status early on October 17. Rick reached its estimated maximum intensity of 180 mph early on October 18, becoming the second-strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Pacific Ocean east of the International Date Line behind only Hurricane Linda of 1997.

After reaching its peak intensity, Rick began to weaken rapidly due to increasing southwesterly wind shear ahead of a mid- to upper-level trough. Rick fell below major hurricane status late on October 19 as it slowed and turned northwestward and then northward under the influence of the trough. Rick continued to weaken rapidly and became a tropical storm 12 hours later while centered about 270 miles south-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The cyclone then accelerated northeastward as it passed about 150 miles south of the Baja peninsula late on October 20. Rick made landfall near Mazatlán, Mexico, just after midday on October 21 with maximum sustained winds of around 60 mph. Once inland, Rick quickly dissipated over the rugged terrain of west-central Mexico.

Media reports indicate that there were two deaths associated with large waves caused by Hurricane Rick. A 38-year-old man was swept out to sea on October 18 while fishing at Los Cabos harbor in San José del Cabo, Mexico. On October 19, a 16-year-old boy drowned at El Medano beach in Cabo San Lucas.

1Category three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale [SSHWS].


2All times in UTC.

Storm Name

Classa

Datesb

Winds (mph)

Pressure (mb)

Deaths

Andres

H

June 21–24

80

984

1

Blanca

TS

July 6–9

50

998

 

Carlos

H

July 10–16

105

971

 

Dolores

TS

July 15–16

60

997

 

Enrique

TS

August 3–7

65

994

 

Felicia

MH

August 3–11

145

935

 

Guillermo

MH

August 12–20

125

954

 

Hilda

TS

August 22–28

65

954

 

Ignacio

TS

August 24–27

50

999

 

Jimena

MH

August 28-September 4

155

931

1

Kevin

TS

August 29-September 1

50

1000

 

Linda

H

September 7–11

80

985

 

Marty

TS

September 16–19

40

1002

 

Nora

TS

September 23–25

60

997

 

Olaf

TS

October 1–3

45

996

 

Patricia

TS

October 11–14

60

996

 

Rick

MH

October 15–21

180

906

2

a TS – tropical storm, maximum sustained winds 39–73 mph; H – hurricane, maximum sustained winds 74 mph or higher; MH – major hurricane, maximum sustained winds 111 mph or greater.

b Dates begin at 0000 UTC and include tropical/subtropical depression stage, but exclude extratropical stage and remnant low stages.

TODD B. KIMBERLAIN are hurricane specialists at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida. The cyclone summaries are based on Tropical Cyclone Reports prepared by the authors and their colleagues at the NHC: Lixion Avila, Jack Beven, Daniel Brown, Richard Pasch, Eric Blake, Robbie Berg, John Cangialosi, and Chris Landsea. The summaries of cyclones that crossed 140°W into the Central North Pacific basin were provided by Richard Knabb, Thomas Birchard, Derek Wroe, Sam Houston, and Jeffrey Powell of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. These reports are available online at www.nhc.noaa.gov/2009epac.shtml.

MICHAEL J. BRENNAN are hurricane specialists at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida. The cyclone summaries are based on Tropical Cyclone Reports prepared by the authors and their colleagues at the NHC: Lixion Avila, Jack Beven, Daniel Brown, Richard Pasch, Eric Blake, Robbie Berg, John Cangialosi, and Chris Landsea. The summaries of cyclones that crossed 140°W into the Central North Pacific basin were provided by Richard Knabb, Thomas Birchard, Derek Wroe, Sam Houston, and Jeffrey Powell of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. These reports are available online at www.nhc.noaa.gov/2009epac.shtml.

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