Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sinkhole Explanation

Ten days ago I wrote an article explaining how these sinkholes in Guatemala City are forming. Today's issue of Nuestro Diario has an article showing geologists descending into the big sinkhole in Zone 2 to examine it and take photos. The article also shows a diagram confirming what I said in my previous post.

At the bottom center of the sinkhole, 100 feet down, is a 6 foot by 9 foot storm drain / sewer gallery that collapsed. The high pressures and flow rates during Tropical Storm Agatha then escavated the sinkhole by erosion from the bottom up. Once the underground cavity became large enough that the "roof" of the cavity could no longer support the weight of the buildings above, it collapsed and everything fell into the cavity. It's very simply once you understand how it happens, no mystery.

I'd like to provide a link to the online article in Nuestro Diario but their web site's Flash software is not working correctly and I cannot link to today's article. However you can navigate to the article yourself here Go to the June 30, 2010 issue and turn to page 5.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tropical Storm Alex, Final Update 20:00 CST 28Jun10

Location: 20.6N 91.6W, 525 miles SE of Brownsville, TX, 420 miles ESE of Tampico, Mexico
Movement: NNW at 4 kts
Minimum central pressure: 990 mb
Maximum sustained winds: 50 kts, gusting to 60 kts

Tropical storm and hurricane watches are in effect for NE Mexico and SE Texas.

Alex is no longer a threat to Central America so this will be the last report on this storm on this news blog.

Tropical Storm Alex Update 13:00 CST 28Jun10

Location: 20.3N 91.7W, moving NNW at 6 kts, 85 miles WNW of Campeche, Mexico. 535 miles SE of Brownsville, TX
Maximum sustained winds: 50 kts, 60 MPH, 95 kmh, gusting to 60 kts
Minimum central pressure: 990 mb

Alex is strengthening. Rainfall at Guadalajara was 6.76 inches. Computer models predict landfall near Brownsville, TX

Tropical Storm Alex Update 4:00 AM 28Jun10

Location: 19.7N 91.6W, moving NW at 6 MPH
Minimum central pressure: 990 mb
Maximum sustained winds: 45 kts

As you can see, there's been a major drop in the central pressure which indicates better organization of the "eye" and a strong increase in the tendency to strengthen. We'll see how quickly this turns into a hurricane.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Alex Upgraded to Tropical Storm

Location: 19.4N 91.3W
Maximum sustained winds: 40 kts, 45 MPH, 75 kmh

As expected, Tropical Storm Alex didn't waste any time winding up again as soon as it had access to the warm waters of the Gulf. There's a 50 percent chance Alex becomes a hurricane in less than 48 hours. Projected second landfall is somewhere between La Pesco, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas.

Tropical Depression Alex, Update 1800 CST 27Jun10

Location: 19.2N 90.9W moving WNW at 8 kts
Minimum central pressure: 999 mb
Maximum sustained winds: 30 kts, gusting to 40 kts.

Alex is approaching the Bay of Campeche and even though the center of the storm is not yet over water, it is already showing signs of strengthening as more of the storm moves over the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico. Alex is expected to strengthen to a tropical storm by midnight tonight.

The storm continues to trigger convection and rain over Guatemala, southern Mexico, and the Gulf. Here in Rio Dulce, Izabal, it has not rained all day and we had a sunny afternoon, but that could easily change.

First Reports of Damage from Alex

Tropical Storm Alex dropped a lot of rain on Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and more is expected. Guatemala has been on Orange Alert since before the rains began.

A landslide in Sololá has left two dead. A group of 20 men were working on a dirt road to provide access to their community when the rains began. Four of the workers took shelter under a rock and were killed when the rock loosened. Rather than wait for rescue authorities, the workers rescued the bodies themselves.

Conred reports there have been several landslides and collapses caused by the rains. One occurred at km 131 on the road from Tiquisate to Río Bravo, Suchitepéquez. Others are reported in the villages of Ojer Coc La Vega and San Jose Poaquil, Chimaltenango. Others have occured between San José Poaquil and Las Mejoranas Saquitacaj in the same municipality of Chimaltenango.

Another collapse was reported at km 144.5 on the Pan-American Highway, Chichicastenango, Quiche. Another at km 32.5 in the jurisdiction of Auto Mariscos, Escuintla, and another at kilometer 49 of the highway to Palin, Escuintla

Guatemala on Alert for Flooding

Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Alex have been falling across Guatemala. Here in Izabal it rained steadily all night although there was little or no thunderstorm activity. Conred has issued an orange alert for all of Guatemala and a special high alert for Izabal. No serious flooding has yet taken place but there are dozens of rivers throughout Guatemala that are capable of flooding and causing destruction.

Rain is expected to continue today (Sunday) and into the week so the alerts remain in force.

Tropical Depression Alex 9:00 AM 27Jun10

Location: 18.7N 90.6W, moving west
Maximum sustained winds 30 kts, 35 MPH, 55 kmh

Tropical Storm Alex has weakened and been downgraded to a tropical depression. It is expected enter the Gulf of Mexico and strengthen before making landfall near Tampico, Mexico.

Conditions in the Caribbean are not conducive to cyclone formation for the next 48 hours.

Tropical Storm Alex Update 6:00 AM 27Jun10

Location: 18.4N 89.9W, 94 nm SSE of Campeche, Mexico
Movement: WNW at 10 knots
Minimum central pressure: 1000 mb
Maximum sustained winds: 35 kts, gusting to 45 kts

Alex continues to take advantage of the broad upper level ridge that provides it with good outflow in all directions except the south so the storm has not weakened quite as much as expected. Widespread rain and thunderstorms related to Alex continue across much of Central America but most of the deep convection is in the Yucatan, across souther Mexico, and into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico right now.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tropical Storm Alex Update 9:00 PM CST 26Jun10

Storm center located near 17.7N 88.4W, moving northwest
Maximum sustained winds 50 kts, 60 MPH, 95 kmh

Alex continues to pull in large amounts of moist warm air, triggering rain and thunderstorms across much of Central America and southern Mexico. The storm is expected to weaken to a tropical depression by noon Sunday as it crosses the Yucatan, then strengthen again once it enters the Gulf of Mexico.

Alex Now 15 Miles Southeast of Belize City 17:30 CST 26Jun10

Storm center is now located appx: 17.4N 88.1W, 15 miles southeast of Belize City
Moving west at 10 kts, 12 MPH
Minimum central pressure 996 mb
Maximum sustained winds 55 kts, 65 MPH

Tropical Storm Alex Strengthens 3:00 PM 26Jun10

As expected, Tropical Storm Alex has slowly strengthened as it moves over the water towards the Yucatan.

Storm center is now located appx: 17.3N 87.8W
Moving west at 12 MPH
Minimum central pressure has fallen to 996 mb
Maximum sustained winds 55 kts, 65 MPH

Computer models forecast Alex to come ashore near Chetumal, Mexico and continue west northwest, losing strength and becoming a depression while over the Yucatan, then to continue into the Gulf of Mexico. Once over the Gulf, Alex is expected to rapidly regain strength and become a hurricane before making landfall again near Tampico, Mexico.

Here in Rio Dulce we continue to receive gentle but steady rain.

Tropical Storm Alex Update 12:30 CST 26Jun2010

Location: 17.5N 87.2W, 75 miles east of Belize City, 100 miles southeast of Chetumal, Mexico.
Movement is WNW at 8 knots
Minimum central pressure is 1003 mb
Max sustained winds are 40 kts gusting to 50 kts
All previous warnings and watches remain in effect.

Upper level outflow from the storm is strong and is triggering convection, thunderstorms, and rain across Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and the Yucatan, as well as at sea and up into the Gulf of Mexico

Tropical Storm Alex 9:00 AM 1500z

Location: 17.3N 86.1W
140 miles east of Belize City
165 miles ESE of Chetumal, Mexico
Moving WNW, 290 degrees at 9 MPH
Central pressure 1003 mb
Max sustained winds: 40 kts, 45 MPH, 75 KMH

Here in Rio Dulce we have light but frequent rainshowers.

Tropical Storm Alex, Update

As expected, during the wee hours of the morning, Tropical Depression One was upgraded to Tropical Storm Alex.

Alex is located at 17.0N 85.3W, approximately 200 miles southeast of Belize City. Alex has maximum sustained winds of 40 MPH and is moving on a course of 285 degrees (WNW) at 8 MPH. Central pressure is 1004 mb.

It is capable of bringing 4 to 8 inches of rain to eastern Guatemala and 2 inches of rain elsewhere in Guatemala. The storm is triggering convection and thunderstorms over much of Central America.

Tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of Belize, the eastern coast of Yucatan from Chetumal to Cancun, and the islands of Roatan, Guanaja, and Utila in Honduras. Tropical storm watch is in effect for the coast of Honduras from Limon to the Guatemalan border.

A broad upper ridge remains over Tropical Storm Alex so, as can be seen in the satellite imagery, outflow is good in all directions. Alex is expected to strengthen slowly. Sustained winds of 60 MPH are expected by this afternoon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tropical Depression One Image

Here's a very pretty image of the storm at 22:00 local time, June 25, 2010

Honduras Issues Storm Warning

The government of Honduras just issued tropical storm watches for the Honduran coast from Limon to the Guatemalan border.

In addition, tropical storm warnings were issued for the islands of Roatan and Utila.

4 to 8 Inches of Rain Forecast for Eastern Guatemala

The National Hurricane Center in it's 8 PM advisory regarding Tropical Depression One is forecasting 4 to 8 inches of rain for Eastern Guatemala and the same for the area of the Yucatan where the storm is expected to make landfall.

TD1 Causing Rain in Eastern Guatemala

We have some pretty wild convective storms going on here over much of Central America.

This image is from 8:10 PM Local Time, June 25, 2010

Tropical Depression One

Here we go. Welcome to hurricane season.


The models project this storm to move towards Cozumel, Mexico. More updates as they are released.

ALERT: Probable Tropical Storm

A large area of disorganized thunderstorms in the western Caribbean between the northeast corner of Honduras and the Caymans is showing signs of organization. The National Hurricane Center gives it a high chance (70 percent) of becoming a cyclone. An aircraft will explore the disturbance today to see if rotation has begun.

The area is visible on the images HERE.

2010 Hurricane Season Starting Strong

Despite sea surface temperatures only in the low to mid-80s, we have seen that upper level wind shear and other factors are producing conditions that are very conducive to cyclone formation.

Right now in the Eastern Pacific we have Category 5 Hurricane Celia located southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Baja California. Celia is moving west so is not a threat to land. Right behind Celia and following roughly the same track is Category 2 Hurricane Darby, located about 400 miles southwest of Acapulco, Mexico, also moving west. Darby is bringing rain to southwestern Mexico but is not a serious threat to land.

Directly off the Pacific coast of Guatemala and El Salvador is an area of low pressure and strong disorganized thunderstorms. The National Hurricane Center gives this system a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression in the next 48 hours. This system poses an increased rain threat to Guatemala as it is moving very slowly west northwest at only 10 miles per hour. Conred has issued an Orange Alert regarding this system.

Of interest to eastern Guatemala, there is activity on the Atlantic side. Off the northeast tip of Honduras is a large area of disorganized thunderstorms and falling barometric pressure. The National Hurricane Centers gives a 70 percent chance of a cyclone developing from this system. Most computer models are projecting cyclone development and eventual landfall in the Yucatan but we need to keep a close eye on this one. And there a large area of disorganized thunderstorms located about 600 miles east of Puerto Rico, moving slowly WNW. NHC is giving only a 10 percent chance of cyclone formation in this system during the next 48 hours

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tropical Weather Update #2 June 22, 2010

On the Pacific side there is an area of low pressure and thunderstorms southwest of Guatemala. The NHC says there is an 80 percent chance that it develops into a cyclone. The system is moving west northwest so should not be a serious problem but it may bring increased rain to the Pacific coast before it moves away.

Tropical Weather Update June 22, 2010

There is a fairly large area of disturbed weather and thunderstorms located south of Hispaniola. There is no rotation but a strong tropical wave is about to pass through that area and wind conditions are fairly good for formation.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Sinkholes in Guatemala City

The preceding article here discusses the causes of the big sinkhole that opened up on Zone 2 in Guatemala City and the probability that more such underground caverns exist. Lest there be any doubt, here's another view of the Zone 2 sinkhole and another in Zone 6 that recently occurred.

How would you like to wake up to this in your living room?

Sinkhole Guatemala, originally uploaded by AdventureRequired.
Used by permission.

Here is another:
Underground caverns like this don't form overnight, or in a few weeks. It takes years of erosion for this to happen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Big Sinkhole in Guatemala City

It made world news when a giant sinkhole opened up in Guatemala City during Tropical Storm Agatha. It swallowed a multi-storey apartment building and several homes. This spectacular photo of the hole circulated for days on the Internet:

Click the photo to see larger and much larger versions.

There has been a lot of discussion since over what may have caused it. Geologists and engineers have been studying the collapse and several theories have been put forward. The common thread is that an underground flow of water eroded the soil until a huge cavern was hollowed out and finally the surface collapsed into the hole. The questions then were was this natural or man-caused? Can it happen elsewhere? Are other caverns like this likely to exist in other parts of Guatemala City?

When all the facts are taken together, the root cause is clear, and it's something that the engineers have been warning the city about for 20 years. From 1975 to 1985 the Guatemala City rebuilt and modernized its storm drain and sewer system. From 1986 on, the system was largely ignored and not maintained. Even worse, due to lack of controls and building codes, people built right over the top of some of the facilities, sealing up manhole covers and building over them, sealing up gas vents, filling and building over overflow basins.

For years, the engineers who designed and built the system have been complaining and trying to raise the alarm but it's fallen on deaf ears. Residents have noted cases where during heavy rains, water will erupt from manholes, blowing the covers completely off. This is partly due to the overflow basins not functioning as designed. Hissing noises and foul smelling gases are noted coming out of manhole and storm drain gratings. This is caused by the gas vents being sealed off and the gases underground building up considerable pressure. Residents have noted odd vibrations and occasional loud rumblings in the earth. The loud rumblings are the sound of soil collapse as caverns like the one in the photo open up underground but the surface has not yet collapsed. The warning signs have been there for a long time.

These caverns can occur wherever there is an uncontained flow of water underground. The lack of maintenance and vandalism to the system mentioned above causes the storm drain system to operate at higher pressures than it was designed for. Manhole covers being blown off is a clue. This greatly increases the chance of an underground leak or completely broken pipes or galleries. If there is a leak, the flow will gradually erode the soil. If a pipe is broken, the amount of soil removed can be very large. Where does the soil go? Often it goes back into the pipe. Storm drains are not under continuous pressure, the pressure varies, often to zero, so water can flow out of a leak and then back into the same pipe or gallery, carrying away the soil. Over a period of years the amount of soil carried away can produce the kind of sinkhole shown in the photo above.

So there's really no mystery to this. This failure mechanism is nothing new. It's been known to engineers since Roman times. The bad news is that it's a virtual certainty there are more caverns waiting to collapse, and more forming each time it rains. Fixing it pretty much means rebuilding the system--again, and then maintaining it.

Little Rain

The forecast for yesterday (Saturday) called for lots of rain but it didn't happen, at least not in Rio Dulce. We got a few light showers.

There are several tropical waves moving across the Caribbean and northern South America so there's always the possibility of thunderstorms but for the time being conditions are not right for the formation of tropical storms.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rivers Rising Again

The rainy season has been bringing plenty of rain to much of Guatemala. Here in Rio Dulce we have not received very much but just about everywhere else in the country has actually been getting too much rain too fast. The ground is already saturated and the rain is coming too fast for it to drain into subterranean aquifers. Instead, it's eroding soil and causing flooding.

Izabal and Zacapa departments are both threatened by the Motagua River which flooded badly during Tropical Storm Agatha and is now flooding again. The Motagua's flood stage alert level is 2 meters. The river is now at 6 meters and rising.

The populations most threatened are those around Morales and Los Amates. About 20,000 people are at risk because their homes are in the flood zone. 800 people have already been evacuated in Los Amates and another 850 in Morales.

In Zacapa approximately 10,000 are at risk. 500 have been evacuated in Gualan where last week's rain damaged 700 homes.

The passage of a tropical wave is expected to cause continued rain today (Thursday) and tonight in the affected areas.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Three Areas of Tropical Activity in Our Neighborhood

We have three areas of tropical activity, all on the Pacific side.

Tropical Depression 2E
Wind: 30 MPH
15.0N 95.8W, moving NW
Expected to develop into a tropical storm

Invest 92
Wind: 30 MPH
14.6N 105.6W, moving S

Invest 93
Wind: 30 MPH
14.6N 95.3W, moving N

They all appear to be moving away from Guatemala but it's interesting that we have this much activity already. The sea surface temperatures are not that high yet, only 80 to 85F where those storms are located.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tropical Cyclone Season is Upon Us

We're halfway through June and things are starting to happen out there, both in the Atlantic and Pacific.

Tropical waves are coming off of Africa regularly now. In fact one is going to pass over us during the next few hours so thunderstorms are more likely to occur.

There are also three areas with interesting conditions, in other words moisture and weakly organized convection. Two are located in the Pacific. One is at 14N 96W and another that's smaller but slightly more organized is at 14N 105W. A third is in the Atlantic at approximately 13N 48W. This third one is presently interacting with a tropical wave. The wave does not show much curvature but something might still develop.

Maya Paradise Site Reorganization, New URLs

Over the past 18 months the Maya Paradise website has undergone gradual changes in how the site is organized. As a last step in the process many pages have been redesigned and also have new URLs. The old URLs are being temporarily forwarded tp the new URLs but if you are linking to any of the following presentations or articles, your links should be changed to the new URL given below:

Guatemala Facts

Brief History of the Mayan Civilization

Trans-Oceanic Diffusion

Brief History of United Fruit Company

About Our Tropical Rain Forest

The Basics of Deforestation

Tropical Diseases


Cellular Telephone Codes & Commands for Tigo, Claro, Movistar

SMS Chistes, Mensajitos

Common Plants in the Rio Dulce Area

Bird Species and Sighting Database

The Garifuna or Black Caribs

The Manatee or "Sea Cow"

The Castillo

Ham / Maritime Mobile Radio Nets

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mensajitos SMS de Amor, Bromas, Chistes y Mas

Maya Paradise ya cuenta con una nueva seccion con mensajitos SMS para tu celular. En esta seccion encontrarás bromas, chistes, mensajitos graciosos, y de amor, de amistad, y mensajes inspiracionales y religiosos.

Utilice estos mensajes de una manera responsable, por favor. No mandas estos mensajitos a personas que no conozcas.

Por favor, enviarnos buenos mensajes que encuentras y lo añadiremos a la lista. Se puede enviarlos a

T-Storms in Rio Dulce

We had a nice set of thunderstorms in Rio Dulce last night. The fun started around 10:00 PM with light rain and distant thunder. By 11:00 PM we had heavy rain squalls, wind, and lightning that continued off and on until 5:30 AM.

The power grid took multiple hits at the start of the storm, probably from trees falling on power lines. I heard two fuses blow. Then the power went off from 11:00 PM until 6:00 AM, probably shut down intentionally because there were so many hits on the grid.

This morning, all seems back to normal.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Powerful Thunderstorm Destroys 212 Homes

A powerful thunderstorm occurred Thursday night around 9:00 PM in Zacapa and El Progreso. Residents said the lightning and thunder during the storm was nearly continuous, sounding like a helicopter. The storm unleashed a flash flood on the Rio Chiquito that destroyed everything in its path. The flood destroyed 212 homes and six vehicles. Crops were damaged and an unknown number of animals were lost.

Damage from Tropical Storm Agatha

The latest figures in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Agatha put the death toll at 170 with 100 more persons missing. More than 200,000 persons were affected. 90,000 people are in shelters. Damage to infrastructure is $500 million.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Comandos, Codigos, Prefijos para Celulares de Tigo, Claro, Movistar en Guatemala

Cada unos días alguien me pregunta acerca de su teléfono celular. ¿Cómo puedo consultar mi saldo? ¿Cómo puedo transferir crédito de mi teléfono a otro? ¿Cómo puedo llegar a servicio al cliente? ¿Qué es el Plan Amigo? ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre saldo principal y saldo de bonos? ¿Cómo es que mis créditos desaparecen? ¿Puede que alguian roba crédito de mi teléfono? (No) Y así sucesivamente.

Aqui les dejo una lista completa de los bonos, los comandos y funciones, que yo sepa de Tigo, Claro, y Movistar, junto con instrucciones sobre cómo utilizarlas, y algunos consejos y sugerencias, puesto junto aquí en Inglés y Español en una sola página web.

Espero que les sea útil.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Active Hurricane Season Predicted for 2010

The seasonal outlook from NOAA issued on May 27, 2010 forecasts an “active to extremely active” hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year.

The season officially begins today, June 1. NOAA is forecasting a 70 percent probability of:

14 to 23 Named Storms
8 to 14 Hurricanes (74 mph or higher)
3 to 7 Major Hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5)

The long-term seasonal average is 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, 2 major hurricanes.

Conditions are fairly good for the formation of hurricanes. El Niño has dissipated so wind shear is reduced. Wind shear is destructive to hurricanes and is what suppressed hurricanes during the 2009 season. Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperatures are above average and are expected to remain so for the rest of the season. Warm surface seawater is the "fuel" that powers hurricanes. Sea surface temperatures are at record highs, 4 degrees F above average for this time of year.

La Aurora Will Open Today, However...

The Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil announced this morning that the airport cleanup is 90 to 95 percent complete. All that remains to be cleaned is a strip of 1,900 meters by 60 meters. The DGAC plans to open the airport at noon today.

However, flight operations will likely not restart immediately. Some airlines are talking about Thursday for restarting flights so check with your air carrier.

La Aurora International Airport has been closed since May 27th due to volcanic ash falls from the eruption of Volcan Pacaya.