Monday, May 31, 2010

Impressive Photo of Sinkhole in Zone 2

Click the photo to see larger and much larger versions.

This sinkhole formed in Zone 2 of Guatemala City during tropical storm Agatha. It swallowed a three-story building and eleven homes which are at the bottom of the 180-plus foot deep hole.

While this sinkhole formed seemingly as a result of the heavy rains from the tropical storm, the cause is more likely due to years of pumping out of groundwater. Groundwater provides some of the pressure that supports the soil above. When the water is removed and the hydrostatic pressure falls, the ground above can collapse.

Volcan Pacaya Erupting Again

INSIVUMEH released a news bulletin a short while ago:

Volcan Pacaya began a new eruptive phase this morning with strong Strombolian explosions at approximately one minute intervals, launching ash 500 to 800 meters (1,500 to 2,500 feet) into the air.

Where the ash will fall depends on wind direction.

Carretera Atlantica is Open

The flooding of the highway between Los Amates and Gualan has subsided and the road from Rio Dulce to Guatemala City is open.

Litegua is running their normal schedules.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rio Motagua Causes Heavy Damage in Izabal

Two persons are missing and hundreds have been evacuated. Water was six feet deep across the Atlantic Highway near Los Amates and traffic was backed up for 15 kilometers on both sides of the flooded area.

Millions in damages have been sustained in the municipality of Los Amates. Important bridges are destroyed, streets and drainage systems collapsed. The municipal planner for Los Amates says 60 percent of the infrastructure has suffered damage.

The El Rico bridge collapsed, leaving 70 communities isolated. 1,200 homes are still underwater.

The flooding has caused heavy damage to agriculture and livestock operations in the area. The areas most affected include: El Rico, Finca Nueva, Quiché, Las Viñas, Seguana, Las Lomas, Puebla, Chiriquí, Dakota. Also affected are the banana fincas of Bandegua (Compañía de Desarrollo Bananero de Guatemala, S.A.)

Flooding of the Motagua also caused heavy damages in Gualán, Zacapa, where numerous homes remain underwater.

Death Toll Now at 80

More than 50 persons were discovered to have perished in Chimaltenango as a result of the rains and flooding from Tropical Storm Agatha, raising the death toll in Guatemala to 80 persons.

Some Photos of Tropical Storm Agatha

Rio Motagua Flooding in Izabal

The Rio Motagua is running well above flood stage. It has destroyed the railroad bridge at El Rico near Los Amates. Approximately 284 homes have been damaged so far.

Flooding of the Motagua River has covered and blocked the Atlantic Highway at kilometer 180, between Gualan, Zacapa and Los Amates, Izabal.

La Aurora Airport Closed Three More Days

The Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil announced today that La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City will remain closed for three more days. Cleanup of the ash from the eruption of Volcan Pacaya continues and the airport cannot be opened until the work is complete.

Volcanic ash is extremely destructive to jet engines and the runways and jetways must be completely cleared of the ash. The heavy rains from Tropical Storm Agatha are in some ways helping the process by keeping the dust down but make the work more difficult in other ways.

Agatha Still With Us

The rain has abated and there are patches of blue sky here in Rio Dulce at 7:30 AM. A friend in Antigua Guatemala reports that the rain has stopped. But this is because we happen to be between rain bands. Tropical Depression Agatha is still with us and the rains will continue off and on as the rain bands pass over us.

The forecast indicates the bad weather will clear out by Wednesday with Wednesday and Thursday being mostly sunny. Note that in the tropics you cannot depend on such forecasts but they are an indicator.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Landslides in Guatemala City

8:30 PM Saturday May 29, 2010

In the last hour, landslides have been reported at the Cejusa Bridge, 13 Calle Aguilar Batres, Calzada La Paz at the Belice Bridge, and Cayalá Boulevard in Guatemala City. Landslides and homes damaged in Sector Tecun Uman, Santa Luisa de Chinautla.

8:40 PM:

The Rio Michatoya and Rio Pensativo have overtopped their banks and are flooding.

The Ciudad Quetzal Bridge has collapsed.

A sinkhole 20 meters in depth and 15 meters in diameter has opened in Zone 2 of Guatemala City.

10:00 PM:

Landslide on the Anillo Periférico, Guatemala City. Two vehicles trapped.

The Palín Escuintla highway has been closed.

Landslides, Flooding Occurring, 12 Dead

Tropical Storm Agatha has come ashore along the southern part of the coast of the Department of San Marcos.

Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Agatha are causing flooding in Antigua and parts of Guatemala City.

Evacuations are taking place in Antigua, Guatemala as the Rio Pensativo is flooding.

Red alert has been declared in Chamerpico, Retalhuleu. Evacuation of the whole area is underway due to massive waves and flooding.

Fallen trees are causing widespread power outages. Heavy rains are causing landslides. 12 reported dead.

Heavy flooding and evacuations are underway in Zone 2 and Zone 5 of Quetzaltenango. The water in the streets is chest high in places and rescue personnel are using boats to reach those in need of assistance.

State of Emergency / Disaster Extended to All of Guatemala

President Alvaro Colom had already declared disaster areas in the Departments of Guatemala, Esquintla, and Sacatepequez due to the eruption of Volcan Pacaya.

This afternoon he extended it to the whole country due to the combination of continued eruptions from Pacaya and the arrival of Tropical Storm Agatha.

First Pacific Storm of the Season Heads for Guatemala

Tropical Storm Agatha is expected to make landfall on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. The Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm could drop up to 20 inches of rain across Guatemala, El Salvador, and parts of Mexico which are likely to cause landslides and flooding.

In Guatemala, the flooding could be worse than usual because the ash from Volcan Pacaya will obstruct both natural and man-made drainage systems.

Pacaya began erupting on Thursday and has spread 2 to 5 centimeters of volcanic ash (which is rough black sand and gravel) over three departments of Guatemala including all of Guatemala City. Some ash has fallen as far away as Alta Verapaz.

Keep up on the latest storm positions and weather conditions here:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pacaya Eruption Videos!

Here are some good videos of Volcan Pacaya's eruption last night, May 27, 2010:

Pacaya Volcano

Last night (Thursday night, May 27, 2010) Volcan Pacaya had an event at 6:55 PM local time. This morning I've gotten some concerned questions from overseas about Pacaya's eruption.

There is no problem, no effects in Eastern Guatemala. The problem is limited to the usual places that get ashfalls when Pacaya has an event, that is the skirts of the volcano itself, parts of Esquintla, Sacatepequez, and Guatemala City, nowhere near Rio Dulce.

Pacaya's ash is essentially black sand and parts of Guatemala City got up to a couple of centimeters of it. The mess is made a bit worse by the rain and it is hoped that it can be kept out of the sewers and storm drains otherwise it will plug those up and make a bigger mess.

Pacaya is an active volcano and eruptions like this happen from time to time. Pacaya is a Strombolian volcano so it produces a combination of lava flow and lava fountain, punctuated by explosions that hurl glowing rock and boulders in all directions, much like a fireworks display.

Pacaya Volcano, originally uploaded by Karlbert.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Looking Like the Drought Might Be Over

It's been raining on and off every day and night since Sunday. Today (Wednesday) and tonight was forecast to have very slight rain but that has been revised. Looks like it will rain quite a bit today.

Thursday will be similar to today.

The important thing in the forecast is Friday. It looks like we are going to get HAMMERED on Friday. 100% chance and over 100mm of rain on Friday so plan accordingly.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is the Drought Over?

After 18 months of harmful drought here in Guatemala that has caused crop losses as high as 80 percent, it's looking like the drought might be over. What's more, it's arriving in Izabal right on time, during the last two weeks of May, which is historically when the rainy season is supposed to begin here.

As I write this we are receiving the first "regular" rain I've seen in a year and a half. By that I mean rain that is not the result of convective storms (thunderstorms) that bring heavy showers but steady rain from nimbostratus clouds. This type of rain can go on steadily for hours or days. The rain began here in Fronteras at 6:50 PM tonight and is steady at 14mm per hour so far. This is the kind of rain that we need, rain that will replenish the soil and underground aquifers.

Despite the inconvenience, we need it and I hope it continues. We'll see over the next couple of weeks if this is the start of the real thing or if Mother Nature is just teasing us.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cellular Phone Codes for Tigo, Claro, and Movistar in Guatemala

Every couple of days someone comes to me with a question about their cellular phone. How do I check my balance? How do I transfer credit from my phone to another? How do I reach customer service? What is Plan Amigo? What's the difference between saldo principal and saldo de bonos? How come my credits disappear? Can someone steal credit from my phone? (The answer is no.) And so on, and so on.

So I put together a list of all the codes, commands, and functions that I know of for Tigo, Claro, and Movistar cellular phones, along with instructions on how to use them, and some advice and suggestions, and put it all together here in English and Spanish on a single web page.

I hope you find it useful.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rio Dulce Weather Station

The Rio Dulce weather station is no longer operational.  But real-time conditions in several Guatemalan cities plus detailed weather and sea-state information and forecasts can be found here:

Weather for Guatemala and the Caribbean

Maya Paradise Redesign

For the past year and a half, the Maya Paradise web site has been undergoing a complete redesign. The changes have been tested and made visible gradually and unless you were paying attention to the URLs of the pages you may not have noticed any change.

The last step in the changeover has now taken place. Maya Paradise is no longer focused directly on Rio Dulce but is designed to cover all of Guatemala. The site is now structured as a hierarchy of "mini web sites", each focused on a particular area, whether it be a department, city, town, or other point of interest.

One of the goals for the redesign is for Maya Paradise to be expandable to cover hundreds of areas but be maintainable by people with average computer skills. For Maya Paradise to grow and cover hundreds of locations in Guatemala a vast amount of material and thousands of web pages must be made manageable. It's not feasible to have a team of 10 expert web designers maintaining the site. So as a part of the redesign, Maya Paradise is now driven by software rather than simple HTML pages. Certain fixed information pages are simple HTML but the majority of the pages are generated in software from template files and a content database. The templates and content database are straightforward and can be maintained by clerical staff who have no knowledge of HTML. All of the content you see on the index pages, all directories, maps, photo galleries, slides, even the ads that appear in each section, are controllable via a simple user interface that does not require any knowledge of web design.

Thus far, Maya Paradise only provides coverage for parts of Izabal. Gradually this will grow and cover more and more of the country.