Hurricane Dolly was the fourth named storm and second hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. Dolly attained Category 2 status in the western Gulf of Mexico offshore the coast of southern Texas before weakening to a Category 1 prior to landfall along the south Texas coast.
Dolly caused around $1.35 billion (2008 USD) in damage and 22 directs, only 1 of which was direct.
|Formation||July 20, 2008|
|Dissipation||July 25, 2008|
|Highest winds||100 mph|
|Lowest pressure||963 mbar|
|Deaths||1 direct, 21 indirect|
|Damages||$1.35 billion (2008 USD)|
|Areas affected||Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, Texas, New Mexico|
|Part of the||2008 Atlantic hurricane season|
Dolly developed from a tropical wave that emerged off the coast of Africa on July 11. The wave moved quickly westward across the tropical Atlantic, developing a surface low about 1400 miles east of the southern Windward Islands on July 13. Over the next several days, the wave continued westward, with deep convection along the wave axis becoming fairly organized at times, but despite this feat, there was little development. Early on July 17, the wave passed through the Windward Islands and entered the eastern Caribbean Sea. Reconnaissance aircraft indicated at this time that there was a broad low-level circulation, but no definite circulation center, as the wave was propagating across the eastern and central Caribbean Sea. Despite this, however, the wave was producing winds in excess of tropical storm force in squalls. When the wave reached the western Caribbean Sea on July 20, reconnaissance aircraft discovered a well-defined low-level circulation. Because the system was already generating winds of tropical storm force at this time, it was immediately upgraded to Tropical Storm Dolly while located about 270 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico. Dolly moved quickly northwestward, and briefly became disorganized for unknown reasons. Although the circulation briefly became difficult to track, surface observations suggest that Dolly passed near the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula at around 0600 UTC July 21. Later that day, Dolly began to reorganize just north of the Yucatan Peninsula. The cyclone moved west-northwest and then northwest toward the southern Texas/northeastern Mexico coast in response to the steering flow associated with a mid-level ridge over the southeastern United States. On July 21 and 22, and upper-level low over the Bay of Campeche inhibited intensification of the cyclone.
Late on July 22, however, the upper low had moved further away from Dolly, and had also weakened. This allowed upper-level outflow over the cyclone to become enhanced, and consequently, Dolly attained hurricane status at around 0000 UTC July 23. Meanwhile, a shortwave trough digging southward from the Great Lakes began to erode the ridge north of the hurricane. Consequently, Dolly slowed considerably as it approached the extreme southern Texas coast and northeastern Mexico coast, still moving northwestward. Around 1400 UTC July 23, Dolly reached its peak as a low-end Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, attaining winds of 100 mph while centered a little less than 20 miles east of the mouth of the Rio Grande River.
Hurricane Dolly offshore at peak intensity.
During the four hours prior to landfall, Dolly weakened slightly, with doppler radar indicating that Dolly's northern eyewall became opened before landfall, when it was previously closed. The erosion of the eyewall could be associated with the entrainment of mid-level dry air off Mexico wrapping into the southern portion of the circulation of the hurricane and worked its way toward the northern semicircle. Another potential factor for the observed weakening may have been the very slow movement of the hurricane, which allowed it to sit atop cooler shelf waters off the immediate coast. At 1800 UTC July 23, Dolly made landfall near South Padre Island, Texas with winds of 85 mph. Two hours later, Dolly made landfall along the south Texas mainland two hours later about 10 miles south of Port Mansfield with winds in excess of 80 mph. Dolly weakened after landfall, becoming a tropical storm at 0600 UTC July 24.
Moving between west-northwest and northwest, Dolly crossed the Rio Grande River Valley by 1800 UTC July 24. By 0600 UTC July 25, Dolly weakened to a tropical depression over northern Mexico. Around 0000 UTC July 26, Dolly degenerated into a remnant low. The remnants turned northward and crossed the Mexico/United States border near El Paso, Texas by 1800 UTC July 26. Dolly's low-level circulation dissipated over New Mexico early on July 27, but the mid- to upper-level circulation remained intact, which helped spread heavy rainfall across New Mexico for the next day or so.
On July 20, the government of Mexico issued a Tropical Storm Warning for the Yucatan Peninsula from Campeche to the Belize border. Just hours later, a Tropical Storm Watch was issued from Belize City, Belize, all the way to the Mexican border. That morning, officials in Chetumal declared a "blue alert" for the entire state of Quintana Roo, due to the close proximity of the tropical cyclone. Later that afternoon, the aforementioned alert was upgraded to an "orange alert", followed by a "red alert" that evening. On the island of Cozumel, the ferry service that connects the island to the mainland was temporarily halted. In addition, the local government banned the use of alcohol, and also asked residents to remain indoors after 6:00 PM local time. In addition, government officials ordered 1,000 residents to evacuate from the island of Banco Chinchorro as well as the villages of Punta Allen and Tulum. Later on, evacuations were issued for Holbox Island, which caused the total number of evacuees to reach 2,000. In the municipality of Solidaridad, 238 residents resided into shelters to ride out the storm. Elsewhere, a total of five storm shelters were opened, but only one of three families used them. The government of the state of Yucatan issued a "blue alert" followed by an "orange alert" as Dolly approached the state.
Gulf of Mexico
Royal Dutch Shell evacuated 125 of its personnel from offshore oil rigs on July 20, as Dolly developed and threatened the oil rigs of the Gulf of Mexico. The next day, another 60 of its personnel were evacuated. In addition, Diamond Offshore Drilling evacuated non-essential personnel from some of its oil rigs, and the Rowan Companies also evacuated one of their eight oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. That same day, Chevron also evacuated some of its employees from two of its offshore oil rigs. On July 23, Petróleos Mexicanos evacuated a total of 66 personnel from one of its oil rigs. Despite the evacuations, oil was not expected to be disrupted by the hurricane.
Mexico and Texas
As Dolly was churning through the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center issued a Hurricane Watch from Tamaulipas, Mexico to Port O'Connor, Texas. At the same time, a Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the coast of Texas from Port O'Connor to San Luis Pass, and along the Gulf Coast of Mexico from the San Fernando River southward to La Pesca, Tamaulipas. At 0300 UTC July 22, the aforementioned Hurricane Watches and Tropical Storm Watches were upgraded to warnings. At the same time, the government of Mexico posted a Hurricane Watch between the San Fernando River and La Pesca.
In Texas, Governor Rick Perry dispatched 1,200 members of the Texas Military Forces, along with some other emergency personnel. Perry also dispatched 250 buses to San Antonio, so that they could be used if evacuations became needed. On July 22, Perry declared 14 counties within the state disaster areas. The Texas Department of Transportation placed construction contractors in the Rio Grande Valley on notice of a possible storm. In Cameron County, officials prompted residents in low-lying areas to evacuate, due to the threat of possible levee failures along the river. Port Brownsville officials decided to close the port at around midnight on July 23; the closing would last through midnight July 25. The United States Navy removed 104 airplanes from Truax Field and flew them to bases that were further inland. In addition, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement evacuated its detention facility in Port Isabel.
In Mexico, on July 21, the state of Veracruz placed 166 municipalities in preventive alert, fearing that Dolly would exacerbate already existing flooding. In Tamaulipas, state officials placed the following municipalities on alert: Soto la Marina, San Fernando, Matamoros, Valle Hermoso, Río Bravo and Reynosa; storm shelters were also opened up in the aforementioned counties. On July 22, 23,000 people were to be evacuated from Matamoros, Soto la Marina, as well as San Fernando, though only around 13,000 of those residents heeded the evacuation order. Those residents were placed in 21 storm shelters. A total of 15 shelters, with a capacity to hold 4,500 people, were activated in Reynosa. On the evening of July 22, the federal government declared a state of emergency in 17 different municipalities, allowing them to be eligible to receive federal funding following the storm. SEGOB also ordered 600 army troops and 350 marines to be dispatched to Tamaulipas; this number would ultimately grow to be 4,800, when police and military were combined. Further inland, on July 21, the state of Nuevo León opened up 300 storm shelters, and the Coahuila state government announced a state of alert the next day. On July 23, Coahuila officials issued an orange alert, due to the possibility of flooding from the hurricane's remnants. In addition, Coahuila officials activated a total of 2,000 military and police to the state.
In Guatemala, the rain caused landslides and at least 17 deaths, with 12 members of one family killed near La Unión in the department of Zacapa and four from another family in San Pedro Soloma, Huehuetenango. One more person drowned after trying to cross the flooded Punilá River in La Unión. Before it made landfall, Dolly caused heavy rain in western Cuba, primarily in the provinces of Isla de la Juventud, Pinar del Río and La Habana. In Mexico, the state of Quintana Roo reported no deaths from the storm, and no major damage was reported in Cancún; however, the city reported significant beach erosion. Four fisherman were reported missing after Dolly passed over the Yucatán peninsula, and one of them was found dead on the beach near Puerto Progreso, Yucatán.
The storm contributed to a $2.16 price increase in oil futures in the New York Mercantile Exchange in July 21, although prices fell again after Dolly missed most of the oil rigs in the Gulf. The Minerals Management Service indicated that Dolly caused 4.66% of the total oil production and 5.13% of the natural gas production to be shut in.
In the United States, President George W. Bush declared 15 counties of Texas as a federal disaster area. Hurricane Dolly is considered to be the most destructive hurricane to hit the Rio Grande Valley in 41 years; the last such storm was Hurricane Beulah in 1967, but Beulah was not more damaging; it was just deadlier. It was the worst hurricane to hit Brownsville since 1980's Hurricane Allen. No deaths were reported as a result of the storm, but one boy was injured after falling seven floors from a condominium balcony in South Padre Island. Early on July 23, an apartment complex roof partially collapsed in South Padre Island. Power was knocked out to more than 13,000 customers in Cameron County, Texas. Sustained winds were estimated at 100 mph with gusts of 120 mph when Dolly made landfall. Dolly's strongest winds and heaviest rains were generally on the left or south side of the eyewall. The winds blew signs off of many hotels. Residents of Brownsville reported downed tree limbs, among other small damages. In addition, at least two tornadoes were reported in San Patricio County, well to the north of the landfall location. One of them uprooted trees and knocked over several roofs and weak structures. By noon on July 23, the storm had left 36,000 customers in south Texas without electric power, a number that rose to 61,000 by 3:00 p.m, and to 122,800 by 6:00 p.m. At the height of the disaster, some 155,000 homes were without electricity. The damage in South Texas was much more destructive than what was predicted. Dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed with hundreds more damaged, and the storm surge caused many boats to brought onshore, some into homes.
The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, declared 14 counties in South Texas a disaster area Insured property damage estimates are near $525 million (2008 USD) with total property damage estimates (based on a 2–1 ratio of total damage to insured damage) near $1.05 billion (2008 USD) in the state (with a large proportion of the losses being agricultural), and the Rio Grande cotton crop was expected to be a complete loss. After weakening to a tropical storm, Dolly spun off another tornado near Poth early on July 24 with minor damage. Near noon on July 24, an EF0 tornado touched down in the southern edge of downtown San Antonio near the Interstate 10–Interstate 37 interchange. Significant damage was reported in the area, with several commercial buildings losing their roofs and numerous houses damaged. Damage was also reported at the Windcrest Tower. About 1,500 customers lost power as a result. Flash flooding from the remnant low of Dolly occurred in El Paso, Texas on July 26: one person was killed in an adjacent portion of New Mexico from a weather-related traffic accident. Additional flash flooding and river flooding on the Rio Ruidoso in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico occurred on the morning of July 27, after more than 6 in (150 mm) of rainfall from Dolly's remnants: hundreds of tourists, campers and residents were evacuated and the storm caused damage at the Ruidoso Downs racetrack. One person was killed in the Rio Ruidoso flooding, approximately 900 persons required rescue, approximately 500 structures were damaged, and initial damage estimates for Ruidoso, New Mexico were in the range of $15–20 million.
Flooding in southern Texas, as taken from a United States Coast Guard aircraft Distant effects included high waves and rip currents throughout the Gulf of Mexico. One person was killed and at least nine others had to be rescued from Panama City Beach, Florida, as a result of rip currents caused by Dolly. The remnants of Dolly also impacted the south and middle of the midwest including the Chicago metropolitan area and Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and some parts of southern Missouri causing severe weather reports and some damage of property.
In Matamoros, Tamaulipas, downed power lines fell on floodwaters and electrocuted one man to death. The hurricane caused 19 colonias to lose electric power, and about 125,000 users lost power the night after Dolly's second landfall. 111 colonias were flooded, and 50 of those suffered severe flooding. The storm also knocked down trees, billboards and traffic signals in the city. Soldiers rescued a family trapped in their home near the mouth of the Rio Grande. On July 26, the remnant low of Dolly dropped heavy rains on Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, causing landslides, flooding, the collapse of a historic church and evacuation of numerous colonias. Damage estimates in Mexico are around $300 million (2008 USD).