Early November, in what in past seasons referred to the end of the tropical storm season in the Caribbean, a hurricane with enough force was formed, breaking storm records in the territory. This is the 28th storm of the season; something that had not been seen for the last 10 years. At the moment, this hurricane has hit Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama, and is expected to reach Cuba and the south coast of Florida in the forthcoming days.
Eta hit land for the first time in Nicaragua and was classified as a category four hurricane composed by winds that reached up to 140 mph (225 kph) and considerable rainfall. Afterwards, it moved towards Honduras and Guatemala, and weakened in its wake until it became a tropical depression. Despite the decrease in its winds, Eta has killed more than 70 people due to the landslides and river overflows that have been generated. On the other hand, in Nicaragua (the country that suffered the worst consequences) hundreds of people were displaced from their homes and lost everything.
This tropical storm has behaved differently from most of the others since it has moved slowly from west to east in the Caribbean and Central America. This behavior has brought catastrophic consequences in many countries due to the increase in the duration of the winds in the continental area.
Impact of hurricanes
Tropical storms correspond to low pressure meteorological systems in which stormy winds rotate around an axis by using energy obtained from the condensation of humid air in oceanic regions. These storms produce strong winds, cyclonic ripples, and excessive rainfall, which threaten coastal areas as they can trigger massive floods, landslides, and the overflow of rivers, among others. Historically, there have been hurricane rains of up to 6 inches per hour and around 43 inches in a day, such as those caused by Hurricane Claudette in Texas, which demonstrates the destructive potential of these events.
Hurricanes have caused numerous deaths in different regions over the years. However, it should be emphasized that there is no direct relationship between the intensity of a hurricane upon landfall and the number of deaths, since the latter variable depends on the vulnerability of the affected areas. In other words, the impact of a hurricane on populations will be determined mainly by their socioeconomic conditions, their capacity to deal with emergencies and disasters, and the resistance of their infrastructure to this natural phenomenon.
The mapping of surface water behavior after a hurricane has shown that floods are not only limited to the coasts, but that these phenomena can cause extensive damage inland. This is confirmed by the fact that since 1970 nearly 60% of US hurricane deaths have occurred inland. One of the catastrophes that can be generated by hurricanes inland are landslides. This phenomenon can be triggered in mountainous regions due to an increase in the rates of flooding and erosion (as in the case of Hurricane Iota). A landslide refers to a geological phenomenon in which movements of a considerable amount of soil occur, along with rockfalls, slope failures, and debris flow provided by gravity, among other events. Consequently, landslides can cause the destruction of crops, roads, towns, villages and the death of people.
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