Lisa makes landfall in Belize as Category 1 hurricane
Hurricane Lisa made landfall along the coast of Belize Wednesday as a Category 1 tropical cyclone. The storm, the 12th named system of the 2022 season, has become the sixth hurricane of the year, and has potential to bring life-threatening storm surge near Belize City over the course of Wednesday evening.
The storm made landfall near the mouth of the Sibun River, about 10 miles southwest of Belize City, at approximately 4:20 p.m. CDT Wednesday. Lisa made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h), and was moving west at 12 mph (19 km/h). Hurricane force winds extended outward to 15 miles (30 km) from the center of Lisa.
As of 7 p.m. CDT, the storm is about 20 miles west of Belize City, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 km/h).
Reports of damage in Belize City have started due to the landfall, with several houses losing their roofs as Lisa makes its way across the country. One local report Wednesday afternoon stated that much of the city was under water, and small sailboats were pushed by the waters into the city's Swing Bridge.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the entire coast of Belize and from Chetumal to Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico Wednesday. Belize government emergency services declared a state of emergency, including a curfew, in multiple districts Wednesday, and officials advised those living in vulnerable areas to move to shelters. Border crossings, ports and airports were also closed in the country.
A tropical storm warning was also in effect from Puerto Costa Maya to Punta Allen, Mexico, and the Bay Islands of Honduras.
Forecasters have been suggesting since the middle of October that a tropical storm could brew in the region around the end of the month or during early November. On Sunday, as the system began to steadily organize, AccuWeather meteorologists began to refer to the budding storm as a tropical rainstorm in order to help people in the projected path of the storm to begin preparations. Early on Sunday evening, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) dubbed the system Potential Tropical Cyclone 15.
Satellite images on Tuesday showed thunderstorms more centrally located around the middle of the tropical storm, rather than off to the side, as was the case Monday. Forecasters also observed an uptick in lightning near the center of the storm on Tuesday. Forecasters said these developments were a key indicator that Lisa was poised to gather strength.
Hurricane Lisa can be seen on the coast of Belize as of the mid-afternoon on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. (AccuWeather Enhanced RealVue™ satellite)
Multiple NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft will be used to investigate the storm through the middle of the week, according to the NHC.
The western Caribbean has a history of storms that have undergone rapid intensification, provided the right atmospheric conditions were in place. Meteorologists say it’s not out of the question that this could happen with Lisa.
"As a word of caution, it is also worth noting that this storm is rather small," AccuWeather Meteorologist La Troy Thornton said. "With tropical systems, this often means that if and when conditions allow it to finally become better organized, a sudden burst of intensification cannot be ruled out."
"Deep water temperatures in the path of the storm are bathlike and in the 80s F while wind shear is forecast to drop off in the northwestern Caribbean," AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno added. "These conditions could foster rapid strengthening."
Wind shear is represented by stiff breezes from the same direction or varying directions over a particular area of the atmosphere. Strong wind shear usually inhibits tropical storm development and/or strengthening. Low to moderate wind shear can aid in the development and strengthening of a tropical system.
AccuWeather meteorologists have rated Lisa as a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes in Central America and less than one for portions of southern Mexico that will be near the path of the storm. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale takes into account only the wind intensity while the RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes and tropical storms takes into account rainfall, storm surge and risks to lives and property as well.
A life-threatening situation could unfold regardless of the peak wind intensity of the developing tropical system as the storm pushes inland over Central America with torrential rainfall that is likely to unleash flash flooding and mudslides.
A general 4-8 inches (100-200 mm) of rain will fall directly in the storm's path with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 12 inches (300 mm) possible in some localized areas. In addition to urban flooding, streams and rivers are expected to rise while runoff over the hillsides can lead to mudslides. Some of the worst conditions could occur over Belize as well as the mountains as far inland as Guatemala and even parts of southern Mexico.
Winds near the center of the storm and for 100 miles (160 km) or so inland are likely to gust to 60-90 mph (100-150 km/h) with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 100 mph (160 km/h). At this force, trees and power lines will come down, and damage to homes and businesses can occur.
Lisa is likely to become a tropical depression or rainstorm by Thursday or Friday as it loses wind intensity. From this point, the system could just diminish completely over land or could take a northward turn into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. Disruptive winds could then take a toll on the system.
It now appears that steering breezes would no longer guide Lisa into the eastern Pacific.
Areas from the Caribbean to the southwestern Atlantic could be a trouble spot for further tropical activity well into November, experts say.
Some meteorological data suggest that waters within a few hundred miles of Florida could be near the middle of such activity during the second week of November. A broad area of low atmospheric pressure is likely in the region with pockets of showers and thunderstorms. Any of these disturbances slowly could evolve into a tropical system over time.
On Tuesday, Tropical Storm Martin formed about 500 miles to the northeast of Bermuda. Martin became the seventh hurricane of the season at midday on Wednesday.
The Atlantic hurricane season will officially conclude on Nov. 30.
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