Case Study Summary— Ortez

I decided to work on Hurricane Mitch as my family members in Honduras were able to experience it personally. One of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes on file, Hurricane Mitch occured on October 22, 1998 causing at least 11,000 deceased in Central America. Documented as one of the most distressing hurricanes of the 20th century in the Atlantic Ocean, Mitch caused destructive disasters throughout Central America. In October 1998, a tropical easterly wave moved through West Africa and off the coast through the Atlantic Ocean. Summers that year had become extremely hot allowing sea temperatures in the Caribbean to reach up to 80°F. The rising air was replaced and a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained surface winds known as a tropical depression, was developed. Winds of 290 km per hour became stronger and stronger as the air kept rising and moving at a faster pace. The low pressure extended to 905 mb allowing it to be the lowest recorded pressure for any hurricane in the month of October in the Atlantic during that time. It spiraled toward the center in a counter-clockwise pattern and out the top in the opposite direction increasing in speed. Mitch was announced as a tropical storm and later classified as a Category 5 hurricane on the 23rd of October 1998.

Honduras and Nicaragua were especially hit hard by Hurricane Mitch. Lingering over the Western Hemisphere, the hurricane moved with several days of continuous rainfall over the Swan Islands, an island chain off the coast of Honduras. Heavy rain caused rivers and lakes to overflow affecting about 18 different departments. Nearly 50%-60% of the roads and bridges were damaged, crops were lost and around 3,800 water supply systems providing water to 2.9 million people, were affected. This did not make it any easier for its inhabitants as Honduras and the other countries in Central America were just recovering from the economic effects left by El Niño, Southern Oscillation events in 1997-1998. There were floods, forest fires and droughts that weakened the country. With the hurricane still in place, 45,330 Honduran residents were told to evacuate and sheltered in localities provided. More than 11,000 people were estimated to be dead after the storm and about 9,191 were reported missing just days after it struck. As communication was lost and many individuals went missing, it was a challenge keeping record to determine the exact amount of deaths in the population.

Officials responses to formal evacuation drills and disaster preparation notices were precise and simple. It was necessary to improve building codes for the homes and stay aware of the storm’s location. Many residents in the southern portion of the country believed to not be as affected like those in the north as the storm was predicted to form in the Atlantic Ocean. The Honduran and Nicaraguan community were not well educated on the storm and were not given enough effective resources in order to combat the hurricane. As usual, the southern region of Honduras is normally not taken into consideration during any conflict and the residents here were the most affected throughout the storm. It is unfair to have seen thousands of humble residents losing their belongings just because the Honduran officials did not take action to prepare better for Hurricane Mitch. These residents did not fully prepare for evacuation drills and any forms of disaster responses, buildings were poorly built and many families decided to move into other countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala as they were less affected by the storm. In response to this hazardous event, all the Red Cross branches throughout the nation remained on alert, especially those in the Bay Islands that were at highest risk. The Red Cross brought together actions with the local authorities and reinforcing them with vehicles and health assistance. In various departments temporary refugees were settled to shelter families that had to be evacuated from their homes. A relief team operated in both countries with enough plastic sheets and blankets, kitchen tools, clothes, shoes, and hygienic use kits. Through the local media an information campaign has been launched and information is being updated and published in the local newspapers. Mitigations of The 1998 massive hurricane, Hurricane Mitch, have allowed Central America to prepare for any other event to occur in the future. Now, when you go to the different countries in Central America, you will see building codes of open lower floors, better roof tiles and shatters implemented. Simple house designs and landscaping are taken into consideration. For the landscaping, sand and concrete are the biggest options provided.

2 thoughts on “Case Study Summary— Ortez

  1. This was a very interesting summary! I’m so sorry your family had to go through that, I had no idea this storm even happened, but it’s so insane to see how a storm that was this destructive and resulted in the deaths of so many people is never taught in schools. I’m glad that the red cross and other organizations were ready and willing to help despite the government not taking this hazard seriously. Hopefully, the building codes have helped minimize the damages of hurricanes since then and the tragedy from this storm has helped the government realize how important it is to take these hazards seriously and appropriately prepare for them.

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