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Hurricane Cesar was the third named storm, and the second hurricane of the 1996 Atlantic hurricane season, forming into a tropical depression on July 24, from a tropical wave that exited the coast of Africa on July 17. Cesar produced torrential rainfall in Central America after it formed, killing 122
people and causing local governments to deem the region a disaster area. After Cesar crossed Central America, it entered the East Pacific Ocean, where it became Tropical Storm Douglas, and eventually, Hurricane Douglas, peaking as a Category 4 hurricane.
Cesar caused $39,000,000 in damage (1996 USD), and killed 122 people, all directly.
|Formation||July 24, 1996|
|Dissipation||August 5, 1996|
|Highest winds||85 mph (Cesar), 135 mph (Douglas)|
|Lowest pressure||946 mbar|
|Damages||$39,000,000 (1996 USD)|
|Areas affected||Curaçao, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezeula (as Cesar), southern Mexico (as Douglas)|
On July 17, a tropical wave exited the African coast and began heading westward across the open Atlantic Ocean. Despite the wave being in a very favorable environment for tropical storm formation, it did not begin to develop until it reached the Windward Islands on July 23. Operationally, it was never said that a depression formed, but it is now estimated that Tropical Depression Three formed on July 24 north of Isla Margarita in Venezeula. After forming, the depression slowly strengthened, and began to move westward in the Carribean Sea on an unusually southerly track. On July 25, the depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Cesar, while located near the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles. Due to a strong and persistent high-pressure area over the Bahamas, Cesar moved westward throughout its trek through the Carribean, with this high also contributing to Cesar's unusual southerly movement. Further intensification of Cesar was limited by this high pressure, however, due to its very close proximity to Venezeula, and much of its circulation being overland.
Cesar continued to move westward, and it eventually reached the southwestern Carribean Sea, this time where its circulation was not overland, because the South American landmass was located further to the south than it had previously been. With warm waters, as well as low wind shear, Cesar intensified to a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds on July 27, just before landfall north of Bluefields, Nicaragua early on July 28. Cesar retained its well-defined circulation over Central America, due to its fast foward motion. Cesar retained tropical storm status over Central America, and when it reached the Eastern Pacific, it became Tropical Storm Douglas, the fourth storm of the 1996 Pacific hurricane season. Favorable atmospheric conditions allowed Douglas to intensify to a hurricane on July 29. Douglas paralleled the southern coast of Mexico, bringing moderate rainfall, but remaining offshore. On August 1, Douglas reached its peak intensity of 140 mph, while located 275 miles south of the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula of California. On the 2nd, cooler waters weakened Douglas, by August 5, Douglas dissipated.
Satellite image of Hurricane Douglas.
In Colombia, the center of Cesar passed over northern Colombia as a minimal tropical storm. The San Andres archipelago had heavy rainfall from Cesar, which caused flooding and killed 11 people.
As Cesar approached Central America, Hurricane Warnings were posted for the country up to 31 hours before Cesar's landfall, giving people ample time to prepare for the hurricane. Because powerful Hurricane Joan hit the country 8 years prior, 10,724 people were evacuated before and during the hurricane, in order to take refuge at special camps. Cesar produced torrential rainfall in Nicaragua, peaking at 10.7 inches at Managua, Nicaragua, the capital of the country, with many other locations receiving 6 inches of rain from Cesar. Because of the heavy rainfall, widespread mudslides and overflown rivers occured throughout the country, with the most affected region being Lake Managua, where the water level was approaching dangerously high levels. Also, there was extensive damage to the rice, bean, corn, yucca, coffee, and plantanoes, amounting to $25,000,000 (1996 USD).
Also, all international flights in and out of Nicaragua were cancelled for a day because of the torrential rainfall from Cesar. Despite the high amount of damage of $39,000,000 in the country (1996 USD), only 9 people were killed in Nicaragua as a result of Cesar, possibly due to ample warnings. Finally, reconstruction cost was estimated at the time to be about $5.1 million (1996 USD).
In Costa Rica, Cesar produced heavy rainfall, causing mudslides and widespread flooding in the country. River flooding damaged 51 houses and washed away 213 houses. Also, contaminated drinking water across the country led to outbreaks of malaria and cholera. Also, 72 bridges were destroyed because of the flooding, and a disruption to the road network was damaged across Costa Rica. Damage in Costa Rica amounted to $10,000,000 (1996 USD), and 34 people were killed in the country as a result of heavy rainfall from Cesar. Subsequent to the storm, Costa Rica requested international aid.
As Cesar moved westward, it produced flooding and mudslides in the western part of El Salvador, killing 9 people in the community of Jose Cecilio del Valle, with four other people drowning in other parts of the country.
When Cesar became Hurricane Douglas in the East Pacific, it produced up to 6 inches of rain on the southern coast of Mexico, and also produced about a 4-foot storm surge, although no deaths were reported because of those effects.
Due to its effects, the name Cesar was retired by the World Meteorological Organization in the Spring of 1997. It was replaced with Cristobal, which was used in the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season, and is on the list of names to be used for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.