Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Nameless Hurricane (South Atlantic Ocean)

This is not hurricane Katrina, but rather Cyclone Catarina, one of the informal names of a South Atlantic tropical cyclone that hit southeastern Brazil in late March 2004. Although not the first southern Atlantic tropical cyclone, it was the first positively identified cyclone-strength system in the basin. The storm killed at least three people and caused an estimated $350 million in damages.

Brazilian meteorologists named the storm Catarina for its proximity to (and eventual landfall near) the state of Santa Catarina, although government forecasters initially denied that the storm, which clearly had an open eye and various other tropical morphologies, was a hurricane at all. More than a year after the storm made landfall, Brazilian meteorologists finally classified the storm as a tropical cyclone.

Like normal tropical cyclones, Catarina brought heavy flooding with it. Because Brazilian government meteorologists refused to acknowledge the tropical characteristics and potency of Catarina, many people did not take shelter, increasing the threat for damage. In the end, the storm damaged around 40,000 homes and destroyed 1500; 85% of the banana crop and 40% of the rice crop were also lost. Total damages were estimated at $350 million. It also killed at least three and injured at least 75.

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