It has been a very unusual season in the Eastern Pacific. Up until now, there have been eight storms, but no hurricanes. There have been four storms that have had winds of 60 mph or more while the other four have winds of 50 mph or less. Ignacio, which started out as a disturbance off the West Coast of Mexico during the latter portion of the week of August 22nd, 2003, marked the first time since records have been taken that a hurricane formed so late in the Eastern Pacific season.
Strengthening rapidly during the day on Saturday, August 23rd, Ignacio became a hurricane by that evening, and a Category Two Hurricane by Sunday afternoon, August 24th. Ignacio became the strongest storm of the season in the Eastern Pacific with winds of 105 mph. The winds have died down to some extent at 75 mph, but rainfall with this system will still be a big problem as amounts could end up ranging from 10 to 20 inches.
It has been quite a tranquil season in the Eastern Pacific. Sea surface temperatures are normal for the most part with very little in the way of anomalies. However, much of the favorable sea surface temperatures for hurricane development are confined to the coastal areas of Mexico and the Intertropical Convergence Zone, ITCZ. Remember, in order to have a tropical storm or hurricane, one of the criteria must be that there is warm water of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ignacio was able to become a hurricane for this very reason. It formed near the Mexican West Coast, and was able to strengthen because of the favorable sea surface temperatures. It had been a depression on Saturday, August 23rd. However, located just to the South of Cabo San Lucas on the Baja California Peninsula, Ignacio rapidly intensified to a tropical storm, and then a hurricane with winds above 85 mph.
While the storm slowed down to a near crawl off of the Baja coast, Ignacio continued to pick up in intensity. Winds grew over 100 mph on Sunday afternoon. Looking at infrared satellite imagery courtesy of the Weather Channel, one could see that there was a lot of strong convection associated with the storm's Central Dense Overcast, and eyewall. Ignacio also had developed a small, but well defined eye.
Within a short time though, that quickly changed. Ignacio's eye became more ragged at first, and then disappeared altogether. Shortly afterward, Ignacio began to lose steam in terms of intensity. Its overall structure looked more diffuse than it did earlier in the day. Winds went down to Category One strength, but the big thing that was happening with the storm was that it was moving northward into the Gulf of California bypassing Cabo San Lucas.
Throughout all of this, the storm's high winds are not affecting a wide area. Instead, it is bringing plenty of rain. With anywhere between 10 to 20 inches of rain, Ignacio spelled bad news for places such as La Paz, which happens to be the second largest city in Baja California next to Tijuana, with 300,000 residents. The deluge of rain brings with it flooding and mudslides to an area that lacks good infrastructure.
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