Tag Archives: Mexico

Another hurricane heading to Texas

Seriously? A hurricane heading to Texas, you say? How can that be, the Atlantic Ocean is devoid of any significant storm activity that could possibly lead to a hurricane.

Turn around! Hurricane Willa is churning off the West Coast of Mexico, and is expected to develop into a major hurricane before hitting the Mexican coast. It will then traverse the wide part of Mexico and eventually, as a tropical depression, arrive in southern Texas. So, technically, a hurricane, is not going to hit Texas. But Hurricane Willa, it its latter days as a potentially newsworthy storm, will. And it will be wet and flooding will likely be a concern.

Also, keep an eye out for what this tropical depression does if it actually breaks through to the Gulf of Mexico. It is too early to say, but there are projections that have Wil;a’s remnants staying on the mainland and wetting down Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, then maybe Alabama, Tennessee and points further north. There are projections that have it go out to the Gulf, and then, in some case, hitting florida. Of the many models out there, only one, however, has the storm actually gaining sufficient strength over the Gulf to become a hurricane again. But still, keep an eye out.

Wil;a will probably transition into a strong Category 3 hurricane by mid day Monday. About Mid day Tuesday, the storm will be far off shore, but its forward speed will increase dramatically and it will be a very fast moving hurricane, making landfall by mid day Wednesday. The first wet spots from Wil;a will be coming into Texas by mid day Thursday.

The storm is expected to come ashore anywhere between LaCruz and Tepic, with the current bulls eye being around Escuinapa on the coast, Durango inland. At risk is a fairly intensely developed agricultural region along the coastal plain. The storm will pass over very hilly and mountainous terrain, which presumably creates a large risk for flooding. The area of Texas most likely to be affected are south of (and including) San Antonio and Austin, all the way south to Brownsville. However, it is a bit early to make such predictions.

A little after Willa plows into Mexico, a second storm, Vicente, not expected to become a hurricane, will menace roughly the same area along the Mexican coast.

Raptors of Mexico and Central America

There are about four hundred species of birds we call “raptors” of which most are falcons, hawks, eagles, owls, and so forth. I believe there are about 40 in what is considered the United States (from a person, not a bird, perspective) and many of them are found across much of the US, with the usual breaks across the Rockies, and a certain amount of north-south geography, and varying degrees of migration.

A typical page
A typical page
There are 69 species of raptors, many overlapping with those in the US, in Mexico (which is part of North America, from a human perspective) and Central America. Interestingly, many of those species are geographically fairly limited in space, compared to the more northerly North American raptors. Or at least, that is my impression from looking at the distribution maps in Raptors of Mexico and Central America by William Clark and N. John Schmitt.

This is a very nice book. Given that it covers only 69 birds (but comprehensively, because it has all the raptors in this raptor book) it is possible to have all the methods and modes used in one book. There are plates with multiple species, appropriately collected to make helpful comparisons, using drawing of the old Peterson style. If you use this book to identify raptors in the field, you’ll probably make your final decisions based on reference to these plates, as that is what they are designed for.

The bulk of the book are species essays, some several pages long (generally about two-three pages). Each essay has a prominent photo of the bird, other photos, a range map, etc. Details on behavior and ID are given, as one expects in a bird book, but with much more information than usual, making use of the space available. Variations of sex, morph, age, and molt, are very important with raptors, depending on the species. The species-level discussions of molt are fantastic.

The front and back matter is modest and appropriate.

Plate of the Collared Forest-Falcon.
Plate of the Collared Forest-Falcon.
If you live in the US Southwest or south to Ecuador, this book needs to be on your shelf. If you ever go to any of those places, bring it. The format is full size trade book, not field guide.

William Clark is a photographer specializing in raptors and one of the leading authorities on this type of birds. N. John Schmitt is an artist who specializes in drawing birds of prey. You’ve certainly seen their work many times. The book Raptors of Mexico and Central America gives you 213 more color photos and 32 plates with many drawings per plate.

A few other books by these authors:

A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors (Natural World)
Birds Asleep (Corrie Herring Hooks Series)
A Field Guide to the Raptors of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa

America is part Mexican

The Dogs Still Bark in Dutch

I grew up in the old Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now known to you as the State of New York. There, I carried out extensive archaeological and historic research, and along the way, came across that phrase, “the dogs still bark in Dutch.”

It is an idea that might occur to a denizen of Harlem, the kids off to Kindergarten, sitting on his stoop eating a cruller, or perhaps some cole slaw with a gherkin, and pondering the Dutch revival architecture down on Wall Street.

There was a war between the Dutch and the English in the 17th century, and as a result of that war, colonial lands were passed back and forth multiple times. In the case of the colony of New Amsterdam, the passing to the English involved the arrival of a warship on the Hudson, but they used their cannon only to wake up the governor so he could receive a letter telling him about the change. Actually, the colony went back and forth a couple of times.

But when the English took over that Dutch colony, they did not remove the Dutch, or really, do much at all. There were some old Dutch customs, such as the Pinksterfest, a bit of a happy go lucky free for all dance party with vague religious overtones, that were illegalized, because the English versions of Christians at the time didn’t like dancing. But mostly nothing happened to affect day to day life for most people. The Dutch parts of the collection of English Colonies and the early United States retained its Dutchness long enough for someone to remark of the time that even with all the political change, the new form of money, the change in monarch, all of that, the dogs still barked in Dutch.

(I oversimplify two centuries of history slightly.)

We know we are eating burritos, yet we call them tacos

I think this is a Minnesota custom but it could be more widespread. This is what you do. You get a large flour tortilla, some kind of meat or beans, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa or hot sauce, grated cheese and sour cream, and you put all that stuff inside the tortilla, roll the tortilla up, eat it, and then say, “That was a good taco, you betcha.”

The part about the tortilla, lettuce, cheese, etc. is not Minnesotan. That is widespread. But calling a burrito a taco may be more local. And, we know it is a burrito. Nobody in Minnesota ever gets confused about what they are ordering at a Mexican restaurant. In fact we’re pretty good at that. Indeed, of all the upper mid west cities, I’ll bet you that Minneapolis has one of the oldest Mexican restaurants, and there has always been a Mexican community here, though it has grown in recent decades.

But never mind the taco-burrito distinction. We Minnesotans also mix up “yet” and “still” and do things “on” accident instead of “by” accident. Don’t get me started on soda vs pop vs sodapop.

What I really want to talk about here is “Mexican food.”

Go find some hipsters and tell them, “Imma go get Mexican food, wanna come?” and you’ll find out that there is no such thing as “Mexican food,” that what you really mean is “Tex-Mex” and that if you want some authentic “Mexican food” there’s this great taco truck down the street that has authentic tacos.

So you got to get the authentic tacos. I did that the other day. Hipsters everywhere. All the tacos, though, were various meat or bean substances, some kid of lettuce, tomato, etc. with some sort of sauce, on a flour tortilla. The only difference between our home made “tacos” and these legitimate “tacos” was that our burritos are chimichanga size, and those burritos were hand size.

Don’t get me started on chimichangas.

Anyway, here’s what I want to say about Mexican food. It is Mexican, and it is not Tex-Mex. Why is it not Tex-Mex? because Tex-Mex is a made up word, a made up category of food. It was made up because people thought this stuff we call “Mexican food” was fake, an American, non-Mexican version of what they eat in Real Mexico. It was not understood that America did not invite Mexico over as long as they bring the Tacos, that things Mexican in America are not immigrated, but rather, indigenous, often. Even though many Mexicans actually do go back and forth across the US-Mexico border, the truth is, the geographical and cultural entity that gave rise to the Country of Mexico also gave rise to the Country of the United States, in part. In part for both. The Yucatan is no more Hispanic Mexican than El Passo is Anglo-American.

Both modern countries have histories that involve big areas of land, country size areas of land by European standards, that had this or that national, ethnic, or cultural thing going on, and all of that stuff contributes to the present. Native American zones were everywhere, of course, and for the region of which we speak here, that included hundreds of languages, many language groups, and numerous entirely different but often overlapping or intermingled lifeways (such as foraging, bigly civilization, and all the arrangements to be found on the small-group-forager to pyramid-building-nation spectrum).

America did not become a first-Native then Anglo-European country that then had Mexicans show up to fix our roofs and run Tex-Mex style taco trucks. Mexican culture, or more broadly speaking New World Hispanic culture (or some other word, you pick) was in place, across a huge area, long before the United States took its current form, and a whopping big chunk of the eventual United States was part of that. And no, I’m not talking about Texas, or even New Mexico, or the Southwest, or the land ceded to the US in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. I’m talking about a big blobby thing that includes regions from Atlantic Florida to California, from the Rio Grande to the Great Lakes, overlapping with other big and small blobby things that were French, English, Dutch, Creole, Acadian, Russian, and so on.

So don’t call what we eat “Tex-Mex” because that implies that we are America sans Mexico. We are Mexico. Even up here in Minnesota, the Cowboys sometimes spoke Spanish. A cowboy IS a Spanish-American thing. And out east, the dogs still barked in Dutch. And our northern beginnings are as French as anything else.

America is part Mexican, but not because they came to us. Rather, we come from them.

Strongest NWS Hurricane Ever Recorded: Patricia (UPDATED)

Update, Saturday AM:

On Twitter, people are shocked and amazed that Hurricane Patricia turned into a tropical storm. Some had prayed to god and now claim those prayers were answered. There is at least one claim of a death on Twitter, but The Twitter Lies, and this is probably someone’s sick idea of a joke.

Naturally, what happened is Patricia made landfall as a very compact hurricane in a region with very few people, but as a strong category five hurricane. It had the highest sustained winds, and the lowest pressure ever observed for a hurricane, but again, Patricia was a small hurricane, not a monster. It was almost like Patricia was pretending to be a tornado.

And, since it came on quickly, and had some unusual characteristics, and was badly reported by almost all major media including the meteorological media, Patricia will now join cousins Sandy and Katrina in the ranks of the Most Misunderstood Hurricanes.

It is not over until it is over, and the storm is still moving across Mexico where it plans to hook up with a Gulf system and cross the border, Donald Trump be dammed, to hose Texas with major rains. In the mean time we’ll have to see what the storm does in the Mexican highlands. Watch the news reports.

Update, Friday PM:

We probably won’t know much until morning, but Hurricane Patricia’s eye has made landfall and the hurricane is falling apart.

This image from The Wundermap shows the last IR satellite image that clearly shows an eye just before it came ashore.

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The part of the hurricane running from the eye to the right is where the strongest storm surge and strongest winds will be. You may have seen videos on the Weather Channel and CNN from Manzanillo, the nearest large settlement (see below for more details) but that is actually pretty far from the eye of this relatively compact storm. It looks pretty windy and rainy in those videos, but I’d be more worried about Costga Careyes, Emiliano Zapata, La Manzanilla, and San Patricio, especially anywhere where there are harbors or bays that might concentrate a storm surge. Here’s a rough drawing of where that eye is, and the zone to the right of the eye where the storm will pack the most punch:

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Update, Friday PM

I updated the graphic above.

Odd point: I’m seeing news stories talking about the “giant size of hurricane Patricia.” Why is the press so dumb?

This is a very very strong, record breaking hurricane. It is not, however, giant.

And, Patricia is making landfall right about now, and for the next couple of hours. Remember what landfall is.

Power has been shut down in the area in anticipation of the power grid being affected by the storm.

Update, Friday early PM:

Nothing too new from the NWS but Jeff Masters has a lot of information on Patricia.

Patricia is not big, as in area covered, but has very low pressure and very fast winds. Depending on context, Patricia has broken or nearly broken a number of records, but this is all very complicated because some of the records are hard to pin down. For example, several hurricanes from the 50s and 60s had higher wind speeds than we have seen since, but we now know that the methods for measuring wind speed in a powerful hurricane were not adequate at the time, and most hurricane experts assume all those numbers are at least 10 mph or so too high. If that is the case, Patricia may have the fastest winds ever recorded. Patricia will end up bing in the top five (or should I say lowest five) in terms of pressure. Also, very few other hurricanes did something Patricia did: The storm turned from a tropical storm to a category five hurricane in less than 24 hours. That is just plain astonishing. Weather experts around the world are in shock.

Putting it another way, Patricia is doing some stuff we didn’t really think hurricanes do, even though a few have done here an there. This is a little like this year’s hurricanes globally; we are breaking records all the time in terms of numbers, size, strength, how many going at once, and all that. The combination of hurricane favoring conditions caused by global warming and the extra boost this year from El Nino is producing quite a bit of storm activity.

It does look like the general vicinity of Manzanillo is the most significant populated area near the most likely landfall. Hurricanes are bigger than cities, of course, and the details matter. In case you don’t know much about Manzanillo, here’s some information from Wikipedia:

Manzanillo is a city, seat of Manzanillo Municipality, in the Mexican state of Colima. The city, located on the Pacific Ocean, contains Mexico’s busiest port that is responsible for handling Pacific cargo for the Mexico City area. It is the largest producing municipality for the business sector and tourism in the state of Colima.

The city is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World”. [1] Since 1957, it has hosted important national and international fishing competitions, such as the Dorsey Tournament, making it a very attractive fishing destination.[2] Manzanillo has become one of the country’s most important tourist resorts, and its excellent hotels and restaurants continue to meet the demands of both national and international tourism.

The main part of the storm is coming ashore now, as seen in this satellite image:

vis-l (2)

Videos and twitter reports from Manzanillo indicate strong winds and heavy rain.

Update, Friday Mid Morning:

The National Weather Service thinks Patricia will make landfall in around 12 hours, but tropical strength conditions are already developing on the coast.

Paul Douglas told me that this is the fastest he’s ever seen a hurricane develop.

The storm surge for this hurricane is expected to be very serious. If you look at the Mexican coast in this area, highlands start right after the coast and there are several small to medium size settlements sitting, in some cases, along small embayments. The worst case scenario is that the hurricane does in fact strengthen, as expected, and the right front punch of the storm aims directly into one of these embayments, flooding the settled area.

The NWS is saying this morning that “Residents in low-lying areas near the coast in the hurricane warning area should evacuate immediately, since the storm surge could be catastrophic near and to the east of where the center makes landfall.”

Sustained winds will be about 200 mph, with gusts of 250 mph.

Coastal and off shore waves will be very high (this is aside from the storm surge).

The dome of water being brought to shore by the storm ranges from 15-25 feet in height, and this could be concentrated in some areas by terrain. The most likely ground zero for a major storm surge may be the vicinity of Manzanillo. It is recommended that areas below about 20 feet elevation be totally evacuated, as there is the possibility of total destruction in those areas. But this “ground zero” could move.

The graphic above shows the most likely are of landfall, but watch this closely because the track could move. The most likely direction of a shift is probably to the north.

Once the storm lurches inland, it will dissipate quickly and turn into a big wet thing, that will drop a LOT of rain in hilly or mountainous areas. The highest death tolls from hurricanes tend to come from flooding inland, and with this sort of terrain, serious inland flooding and significant landslides are inevitable.

After the storm “dissipates” it is likely to join up with a cyclonic system forming in the Gulf. This will cause a major storm in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Parts of Texas and Louisiana could get a foot of rain or more, with further significant rain across a much larger region including Oklahoma and Arkansas, starting over the weekend and into early next week.

Original Post:

Holy cow, man. Patricia, an Eastern Pacific Hurricane, became what is probably the strongest hurricane ever recorded by the National Weather Service in the NWS Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility (AOR), which consists of the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific.

The storm is heading straight for Mexico. This is serious.

There are various ways to measure hurricanes. Maximum wind speed, central pressure (lower is badder), overall size (of hurricane force wind field), and overall total strength (using one of a couple of different metrics). Although weather forecasters and normal people tend to focus on wind speed hurricane experts are more impressed with central pressure. These things are all related, of course. But Patricia is the strongest hurricane with respect to its central pressure, and winds.

From the NWS:

Data from three center fixes by the Hurricane Hunters indicate that the intensity, based on a blend of 700 mb-flight level and SFMR-observed surface winds, is near 175 kt. This makes Patricia the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins. The minimum central pressure estimated from the aircraft data, 880 mb, is the lowest ever for our AOR. It seems incredible that even more strengthening could occur before landfall later today, but recent microwave imagery shows hints of a concentric eyewall developing. If the trend toward an eyewall replacement continues, it would cause the intensity to at least level off later today. The official forecast shows only a little more strengthening before landfall. Given the very mountainous terrain that Patricia should encounter after landfall, the cyclone should weaken even faster over land than predicted by the normal inland decay rate.

The storm will hit Mexico as a strong category 5, the kind of category 5 that makers you wonder why there is not a cateory 6, TODAY (Friday). Incredibly, the storm is expected to get STRONGER before that happens. Winds will reach 200 miles per hour before landfall.

Huge coastal waves, a huge storm surge, intensive inland flooding are expected. This is a catastrophe unfolding.

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