Matthew Foreshadows Slow, Soggy End to Rainy Season

September 27, 2010

Tropical Storm Matthew was reduced to a tropical depression on Sunday as it traversed the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico with sustained winds of 20 miles per hour.

While the storm did not bring the heavy rains and severe flooding to Costa Rica that many expected, it caused damage across the Central American isthmus, and is a sign of what forecasters say will be a prolonged and intense end to the rainy season.

In Honduras, where Matthew brought sustained winds of 45 miles per hour, heavy rains and flooding forced more than 3,360 people to evacuate their homes, according to the Honduran Permanent Contingency Commission. The storm did not cause any fatalities in Honduras, but 108 people suffered damages due to the waters.

In Guatemala, rains provoked by Matthew continued to fall on Sunday morning. Over the weekend, 516 people were forced to evacuate and more than 1,000 residents experienced some level of flooding, according to local press reports.

On Sunday, Guatemala’s National Disaster Commission maintained an orange alert, a level that signifies precaution, and advised residents to avoid traveling on highways due to the possibility of landslides.

Matthew’s effects did not force any evacuations in Costa Rica, but the country’s National Emergency Commission (CNE) said Saturday that seven families whose homes are at “high risk of flooding” in Bebedero de Bagaces, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, remained in a temporary shelter as a “preventive measure.”

On Saturday, the CNE reduced the yellow alert it issued Thursday to a green alert for the Pacific coast, and maintained a green alert for the Central Valley and the country’s Northern Zone.

The green alert, the lowest of the country’s three alert levels, will remain in effect for the remainder of the rainy season.

The commission said in a statement that “constant rains and disorderly urban development continue to generate incidents.”

Because of La Niña’s presence in the Pacific Ocean this year, Costa Rica’s National Meteorological Institute (IMN) forecasts that eight to 10 additional tropical storms will affect the country from October through December.

The central Pacific coast, Guanacaste and the Central Valley will be the most affected regions, and will see 60 to 70 percent more rainfall than average during these months. In these areas, the rainy season will continue into December, lasting two to three weeks longer than normal.

In the Southern Pacific region, where the IMN forecasts 45 percent more rainfall than normal, the rainy season will end in the final days of January, two weeks later than average.

The Caribbean coast will see 5 to 10 percent less rainfall than average through the end of the year, according to the IMN.

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