Hurricane Paul (1982)

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Hurricane Paul
Category 2 hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Paul 1982-09-28 1845Z.png
Hurricane Paul at peak intensity prior to landfall on the Baja Peninsula on September 28
FormedSeptember 18, 1982
DissipatedSeptember 30, 1982
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:110 mph (175 km/h)
Fatalities1,625 total, 668 missing
Damage$520 million (USD)
Areas affected Guatemala, El Salvador, Baja California, Northwest Mexico, United States
Part of the 1982 Pacific hurricane season

Hurricane Paul was a particularly deadly and destructive Pacific hurricane which killed a total of 1,625 people and caused $520 million in damage. The sixteenth named storm and tenth hurricane of the 1982 Pacific hurricane season, Paul developed as a tropical depression just offshore Central America on September 18. The depression briefly moved inland two days later just before heading westward out to sea. The storm changed little in strength for several days until September 25, when it slowly intensified into a tropical storm. Two days later, Paul attained hurricane status, and further strengthened to Category 2 intensity after turning northward. The hurricane then accelerated toward the northeast, reaching peak winds of 110 mph (175 km/h). Paul made landfall over Baja California Sur on September 29, and subsequently moved ashore in Sinaloa the next day.

Pacific hurricane mature tropical cyclone that develops within the eastern and central Pacific Ocean

A Pacific hurricane is a mature tropical cyclone that develops within the eastern and central Pacific Ocean to the east of 180°W, north of the equator. For tropical cyclone warning purposes, the northern Pacific is divided into three regions: the eastern, central, and western, while the southern Pacific is divided into 2 sections, the Australian region and the southern Pacific basin between 160°E and 120°W. Identical phenomena in the western north Pacific are called typhoons. This separation between the two basins has a practical convenience, however, as tropical cyclones rarely form in the central north Pacific due to high vertical wind shear, and few cross the dateline.

Tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones are named by various warning centers to provide ease of communication between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches, and warnings. The names are intended to reduce confusion in the event of concurrent storms in the same basin. Generally once storms produce sustained wind speeds of more than 33 knots, names are assigned in order from predetermined lists depending on which basin they originate. However, standards vary from basin to basin: some tropical depressions are named in the Western Pacific, while tropical cyclones must have a significant amount of gale-force winds occurring around the centre before they are named in the Southern Hemisphere.

1982 Pacific hurricane season hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean

The 1982 Pacific hurricane season, with 23 named storms, ranks as the fourth-most active Pacific hurricane season on record, tied with 2018. It was at that time the most active season in the basin until it was later surpassed by the 1992 season. It officially started June 1, 1982, in the eastern Pacific, and June 1, 1982, in the central Pacific, and lasted until October 31, 1982, in the central Pacific and until November 15, 1982, in the Eastern Pacific. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. At that time, the season was considered as the most active season within the basin; however, the 1992 season surpassed these numbers a decade later.


Prior to making landfall near the El Salvador Guatemala border as a tropical depression, the precursor disturbance dropped heavy rainfall over the region, which later continued after landfall. Many rivers in the region burst their banks after five days of rainfall, causing severe flooding and multiple mudslides. Throughout Central America, at least 1,363 people were killed, with most of the fatalities occurring in El Salvador, although some occurred in Guatemala. Another 225 deaths were attributed to floods from the depression in southern Mexico. In addition, Paul was responsible for moderate damage and 24 fatalities in northwestern Mexico, where it made landfall at hurricane strength.

El Salvador country in Central America

El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador's capital and largest city is San Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a population of approximately 6.34 million.

Guatemala Republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale Paul 1982 track.png
Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

The precursor disturbance to Paul originated from an area of low barometric pressure and disorganized thunderstorms, which was first noted near the Pacific coast of Nicaragua on September 15. Several days later, satellite imagery indicated it had developed a center of cyclonic circulation; on 1800 UTC September 20, the Eastern Pacific Hurricane Center initiated advisories on the system and classified it as Tropical Depression Twenty-Two. At that time, it was located 200 mi (320 km) west of Managua, Nicaragua and supported winds of 35 mph (50 km/h). The depression turned northward in response to a weak steering flow between two high pressure systemsone near Cabo San Lucas and the other west of Central America. It then moved inland near the El SalvadorGuatemala border, and dissipated overland. [1]

A low-pressure area, low, depression or cyclone is a region on the topographic map where the atmospheric pressure is lower than that of surrounding locations. Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence that occur in the upper levels of the troposphere. The formation process of a low-pressure area is known as cyclogenesis. Within the field of meteorology, atmospheric divergence aloft occurs in two areas. The first area is on the east side of upper troughs, which form half of a Rossby wave within the Westerlies. A second area of wind divergence aloft occurs ahead of embedded shortwave troughs, which are of smaller wavelength. Diverging winds aloft ahead of these troughs cause atmospheric lift within the troposphere below, which lowers surface pressures as upward motion partially counteracts the force of gravity.

Thunderstorm type of weather

A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm or a lightning storm, is a storm characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth's atmosphere, known as thunder. Relatively weak thunderstorms are sometimes called thundershowers. Thunderstorms occur in a type of cloud known as a cumulonimbus. They are usually accompanied by strong winds, and often produce heavy rain and sometimes snow, sleet, or hail, but some thunderstorms produce little precipitation or no precipitation at all. Thunderstorms may line up in a series or become a rainband, known as a squall line. Strong or severe thunderstorms include some of the most dangerous weather phenomena, including large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. Some of the most persistent severe thunderstorms, known as supercells, rotate as do cyclones. While most thunderstorms move with the mean wind flow through the layer of the troposphere that they occupy, vertical wind shear sometimes causes a deviation in their course at a right angle to the wind shear direction.

Weather satellite type of satellite

The weather satellite is a type of satellite that is primarily used to monitor the weather and climate of the Earth. Satellites can be polar orbiting, covering the entire Earth asynchronously, or geostationary, hovering over the same spot on the equator.

Under the influence of a persistent stationary trough near California, the remains of the depression retraced westward back over the open waters of the Pacific. Advisories on the system were resumed late on September 20. Though it was reconsidered a tropical cyclone, its wind circulation was poorly defined; the depression again degenerated into an open trough at 0000 UTC September 22. Its forward motion remained relatively unchanged for several days, and by September 24 the system was reclassified as a tropical cyclone. After briefly drifting northward, the system began tracking toward the west-northwest. It gradually organized into a tropical storm at 0000 UTC September 25. Since it was then situated over favorable sea surface temperatures between 28 °C (82 °F) and 29 °C (84 °F), Paul underwent a phase of rapid intensification. This allowed it to reach Category 1 hurricane strength on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS) just two days after its naming. [1]

Trough (meteorology) elongated region of low atmospheric pressure

A trough is an elongated (extended) region of relatively low atmospheric pressure, often associated with fronts. Troughs may be at the surface, or aloft, or both under various conditions. Most troughs bring clouds, showers, and a wind shift, particularly following the passage of the trough. This results from convergence or "squeezing" which forces lifting of moist air behind the trough line.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Sea surface temperature Water temperature close to the oceans surface

Sea surface temperature (SST) is the water temperature close to the ocean's surface. The exact meaning of surface varies according to the measurement method used, but it is between 1 millimetre (0.04 in) and 20 metres (70 ft) below the sea surface. Air masses in the Earth's atmosphere are highly modified by sea surface temperatures within a short distance of the shore. Localized areas of heavy snow can form in bands downwind of warm water bodies within an otherwise cold air mass. Warm sea surface temperatures are known to be a cause of tropical cyclogenesis over the Earth's oceans. Tropical cyclones can also cause a cool wake, due to turbulent mixing of the upper 30 metres (100 ft) of the ocean. SST changes diurnally, like the air above it, but to a lesser degree. There is less SST variation on breezy days than on calm days. In addition, ocean currents such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), can effect SST's on multi-decadal time scales, a major impact results from the global thermohaline circulation, which affects average SST significantly throughout most of the world's oceans.

Upon becoming a hurricane, Paul turned to the north and continued to develop. [1] As the storm neared Baja California Sur, it reached Category 2 intensity. [2] An upper-level trough forced the hurricane to accelerate towards the northeast, at which point it had reached peak wind speeds of 110 mph (180 km/h). From 1800 to 2100 UTC on September 29, the eye of the hurricane made landfall along Baja California Sur, moving ashore less than 100 mi (160 km) south of La Paz near San José del Cabo. After weakening slightly inland, Paul briefly reemerged over water and subsequently made its final landfall near Los Mochis, Sinaloa with winds of 100 mph (165 km/h). [1] Tropical cyclone advisories were discontinued shortly thereafter, [2] though exact information on the storm after it moved inland is unavailable due to a lack of data completion in the hurricane database. [3]

Baja California Sur State of Mexico

Baja California Sur, officially the Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California Sur, is the second-smallest Mexican state by population and the 31st admitted state of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, make up the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.

A tropical upper tropospheric trough (TUTT), also known as the mid-oceanic trough,or commonly called as Western Hemisphere or "upper cold low" is a trough situated in upper-level tropics. Its formation is usually caused by the intrusion of energy and wind from the mid-latitudes into the tropics. It can also develop from the inverted trough adjacent to an upper level anticyclone. TUTTs are different from mid-latitude troughs in the sense that they are maintained by subsidence warming near the tropopause which balances radiational cooling. When strong, they can present a significant vertical wind shear to the tropics and subdue tropical cyclogenesis. When upper cold lows break off from their base, they tend to retrograde and force the development, or enhance, surface troughs and tropical waves to their east. Under special circumstances, they can induce thunderstorm activity and lead to the formation of tropical cyclones.

Eye (cyclone) region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones

The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 km (20–40 miles) in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye and can be as much as 15 percent lower than the pressure outside the storm.


Hurricane Paul after landfall. Hurricane Paul 1982.jpg
Hurricane Paul after landfall.

An alert was issued for the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa and Baja California Sur; army and navy units were on standby in case of an emergency. [4] Roughly 50,000 people evacuated to storm shelters [5] and thousands of others sought refuge in public buildings, such as schools and churches. [6] Across La Paz, officials evacuated 3,000 families from hurricane-prone areas. [7] In the towns of Altata and Guamúchil alone, army officials evacuated 5,000 coastal residents. [8]

Tropical cyclone warnings and watches are two levels of alert issued by national weather forecasting bodies to coastal areas threatened by the imminent approach of a tropical cyclone of tropical storm or hurricane intensity. They are notices to the local population and civil authorities to make appropriate preparation for the cyclone, including evacuation of vulnerable areas where necessary. It is important that interests throughout the area of an alert make preparations to protect life and property, and do not disregard it on the strength of the detailed forecast track. Tropical cyclones are not points, and forecasting their track remains an uncertain science.

Sonora State of Mexico

Sonora, officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Sonora, is one of 31 states that, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 federal entities of United Mexican States. It is divided into 72 municipalities; the capital city is Hermosillo. Sonora is bordered by the states of Chihuahua to the east, Baja California to the northwest and Sinaloa to the south. To the north, it shares the U.S.–Mexico border with the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and on the west has a significant share of the coastline of the Gulf of California.

La Paz, Baja California Sur City in Baja California Sur, Mexico

La Paz is the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur and an important regional commercial center. The city had a 2015 census population of 244,219 inhabitants, making it the most populous city in the state. Its metropolitan population is somewhat larger because of the surrounding towns, such as El Centenario, Chametla and San Pedro. It is in La Paz Municipality, which is the fourth-largest municipality in Mexico in geographical size and reported a population of 290,286 inhabitants on a land area of 20,275 km2 (7,828 sq mi).


El Salvador

Known Pacific hurricanes that have killed at least 100 people
"Mexico" 1959 1,800 [9]
Paul 1982 1,625 [10] [11] [12] [13]
Liza 1976 1,263 [14] [15] [16]
Tara 1961 436 [17]
Aletta 1982 308 [18] [19]
Pauline 1997 230400 [20]
Agatha 2010 190 [21] [22]
Manuel 2013 169 [23]
Tico 1983 141 [24] [25]
Ismael 1995 116 [26]
"Baja California" 1931 110 [27] [28]
"Mazatlán" 1943 100 [29]
Lidia 1981 100 [22]

The tropical depression that later became Paul produced the worst natural disaster in El Salvador history since 1965. [1] Although the death toll was initially believed to be lower [1] [30] [31] it rose to a final toll of 761 after new victims were confirmed on September 28. [32] Of these deaths, 312 occurred in the capital city of San Salvador, [30] which had also sustained the worst damage. [33] Another 40 people perished in Actoo, a very small village located 42 mi (68 km) west of San Salvador. [30] Rescue workers searched through rocks and mud to find missing victims. [34] About 25,00030,000 people were left homeless. [1] Much of San Salvador was submerged by flood waters of up to 8 ft (2.4 m) high, and even after their recession hundreds of homes remained buried under trees, debris, and 10 ft (3.0 m) of mud. [1] [30] In all, property damage from the storm amounted to $100 million in the country; [30] while crop damage amounted to $250 million. [31]

Guatemala, and southern Mexico

Known Pacific hurricanes with at least $500 million in damage
StormSeason US$ damageRef.
Manuel 2013 $4.2 billion [35]
Iniki 1992 $3.1 billion [36]
Beatriz 1993 $1.7 billion [37]
Odile 2014 $1.22 billion [38]
Agatha 2010 $1.1 billion [39]
Willa 2018 $537 million [40] [41] [42] [43]
Paul 1982 $520 million [44] [31] [30]
Octave 1983 $513 million [45]
Norman 1978 $500 million [46] [47]

In Guatemala, widespread catastrophic floods claimed 615 lives and left 668 others missing. More than 10,000 people were left homeless in the wake of the disaster. [48] According to the highway department, the storm destroyed 16 bridges which left 200 communities isolated from surrounding areas. [49] Overall, economic losses of $100 million (1982 USD) were reported in the country. [44] Throughout southern Mexico, floods from the precursor depression to Paul killed another 225 people. [50]

Baja California Sur

Hurricane Paul produced heavy rainfall along its path through Baja California Sur. At least 85 homes in La Paz sustained damage, and many telephone lines in the region were down at the height of the storm. [7] Wind gusts estimated at 120 mph (195 km/h) swept through San José del Cabo, causing property damage and subsequently leaving 9,000 homeless. [1] Despite the damage, no deaths were reported in the wake of Paul. [51]

Northwest Mexico and southwest United States

Upon making its final landfall in Sinaloa, Paul produced hurricane-force winds recorded at 100 mph (160 km/h) in Los Mochis. The winds demolished numerous homes in the region, leaving 140,000 residents homeless and another 400,000 people isolated. [52] The greatest damage occurred 70 miles (110 km) south of Los Mochis in the city of Guamuchil; [1] some houses suffered total destruction, while many other had their roof blown off. A total of 24 people were killed by the storm, although it produced beneficial rains over the region. [13]

The worst flooding occurred near the Rio Sinaloa; 7.9 in (200 mm) to 12 in (300 mm) of rain fell in some locations. Over 25,000 homes were damaged. [53] Agricultural damage was severe in the state of Sinaloa, with up to 40 percent of the soybean crop destroyed. Sugar cane, tomato, and rice crops also sustained damage from the hurricane, and in its wake the state's corn production was down by 26 percent from the previous year. Total storm damage in Mexico amounted to $4.5 billion (1982 MXN; $70 million USD). [1]

The remnants of Paul moved into the United States, producing heavy rainfall in southern New Mexico and extreme West Texas. Inclement weather was observed as far inland as the Great Plains. [54] A combination of rain and snow moved into Colorado; 6 in (150 mm) of snow was expected in Wyoming, thus winter storm warnings were required for parts of the state. [55]


In the aftermath of the storm, the Government of El Salvador was criticized for failing to keep the public well informed. It provided over $300,000 in aid and declared a state of emergency; [30] [34] additionally, a state of mourning was declared. [56] The United Nations World Food program began distributing food set aside for victims of the El Salvador Civil War. [57] The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala provided $25,000 in aid for the country. [58] Mexican authorities rushed to supply food and water to the homeless. [59]

See also

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Tropical Depression Nineteen-E was a weak tropical cyclone that caused flooding throughout Northwestern Mexico and several states within the United States. Nineteen-E originated from a tropical wave that left the west coast of Africa on August 29 to 30. It continued westward, crossed over Central America, and entered the northeastern Pacific Ocean by September 7. It then meandered to the southwest of Mexico for the next several days as it interacted with a mid-to-upper level trough. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) continued to track the disturbance for the next several days as it traveled northward. A surface trough developed over the Baja California peninsula on September 18. Despite disorganization and having close proximity to land, the disturbance developed into a tropical depression in the Gulf of California on September 19, after having developed a circulation center and more concentrated convection. The system peaked with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 1002 mbar.

Hurricane Willa Category 5 Pacific hurricane in 2018

Hurricane Willa was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in the Mexican state of Sinaloa since Lane in 2006. The twenty-second named storm, thirteenth hurricane, tenth major hurricane, and record-tying third Category 5 hurricane of the 2018 Pacific hurricane season, Willa originated from a tropical wave that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) first began monitoring for tropical cyclogenesis in the southwestern Caribbean Sea, on October 14. The system subsequently crossed over Central America into the East Pacific, without significant organization. The NHC continued to track the disturbance until it developed into a tropical depression on October 20, off the coast of southwestern Mexico. Later in the day, the system became a tropical storm as it began to rapidly intensify. On October 21, Willa became a Category 4 major hurricane, before strengthening further to Category 5 intensity on the next day. Afterward, a combination of an eyewall replacement cycle and increasing wind shear weakened the hurricane, and early on October 24, Willa made landfall as a marginal Category 3 hurricane, in Sinaloa of the northwestern Mexico. Following landfall, Willa rapidly weakened, dissipating later on the same day over northeastern Mexico.


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