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Hurricane Cesar-Douglas
Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)

Hurricane Cesar before landfall
Formed July 24, 1996
Dissipated August 5, 1996
130 mph (215 km/h) (1-minute sustained)
Lowest pressure 946 mbar (hPa; 27.94 inHg)
Fatalities 77 direct
Damage $206 million (1996 USD)
$280.2 million (2010 USD)
Curaçao, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela (as Cesar), southern Mexico (as Douglas)
Part of the
1996 Atlantic hurricane season
1996 Pacific hurricane season

Hurricane Cesar was the third named storm of the 1996 Atlantic hurricane season. The Category 1 hurricane formed in late July in the Caribbean Sea and pounded Central America with rain, killing 67 people and causing local governments to deem the region a disaster area. After crossing Central America, the storm redeveloped in the eastern Pacific as Hurricane Douglas, which became part of the 1996 Pacific hurricane season and reached Category 4 strength in the open ocean.


Meteorological history

Storm path

The precursor to Hurricane Cesar was a tropical wave that moved off of the coast of Africa near Dakar, Senegal on 17 July. The system crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a very favorable environment for tropical development but nonetheless did not begin to develop until it approached the Windward Islands on 23 July. While a declaration of the formation was not issued at the time, it is now estimated that Tropical Depression Three, future Hurricane Cesar, formed on 24 July around 1800 UTC just north of Venezuelan Isla Margarita. [1]

The depression slowly strengthened and moved westward in the Caribbean Sea on an unusually southerly track. It was declared tropical storm and named Cesar on 25 July around 1200 UTC while the system was located near the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles. A strong and persistent system of high pressure over the Bahamas kept Cesar moving westward and even south of westward throughout its trek across the Caribbean. Further intensification of the system was hindered by this, however, as the storm remained very close to the coast of Venezuela and much of its circulation was over land and thus not drawing moisture from the sea.[1]

Hurricane Douglas south of Mexico

Cesar continued moving westward, however, eventually reaching the southwestern Caribbean where the South American coastline was located further to the south. Warm water and low wind shear allowed for significant intensification, and Cesar became a hurricane on 27 July at 1200 UTC. The storm continued to intensify quickly, and reached its peak sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (140 km/h) at landfall just north of Bluefields, Nicaragua at 0400 UTC on 28 July. Due to its rapid motion, Cesar retained its well-defined circulation over Central America.[1]

Cesar retained its tropical storm strength over Central America, and upon reaching the Eastern Pacific, it became Tropical Storm Douglas in the 1996 Pacific hurricane season. Cesar's favorable conditions persisted, allowing Douglas to intensify at a fair rate, reaching hurricane strength on the 29th. It paralleled the southern coast of Mexico, causing moderate rainfall but remaining offshore. Douglas reached its peak of 130 mph (215 km/h) on August 1 while located 275 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California. Cooler waters weakened the hurricane on the 2nd, and by the 6th, Douglas dissipated. [1]

Preparations and impact

Death Tolls by Country
Country Deaths
Colombia 11
Nicaragua 9
Costa Rica 44
El Salvador 13
Total 77

Hurricane Cesar was a moisture-laden tropical cyclone that dropped heavy rains along its path through the southern Caribbean Sea and Central America. Damage was moderate to extreme due to mudslides and flooding, and over 65 people were killed.


Colombia and Nicaragua

Cesar moved over northern Colombia as a minimal tropical storm. The San Andres archipelago was hit with heavy rain and flooding, causing 11 deaths. [2]

As Cesar approached Central America, Hurricane Warnings were posted 31 hours before landfall, leaving ample time to prepare for the hurricane. With Hurricane Joan occurring only 8 years prior, 10,724 people were evacuated before and during the hurricane to take refuge at special camps. [3] Torrential rainfall was the immediate effect of Cesar, peaking at 10.7 inches (271 mm) at Bluefields, Nicaragua with many other locations reporting over 6 inches (150 mm). The intense precipitation led to widespread mudslides and overflown rivers across the mountainous country. The most affected region was Lake Managua where the water level was approaching dangerous levels. [4] Extensive damage was seen to the rice, bean, corn, yucca, plantanoes, and coffee amounting to $25 million (1996 US dollars). [5] All international flights in and out of Nicaragua were cancelled from the rains for 1 day. Despite its total damage toll of $39 million, only 9 people were killed in the country, possibly due to ample advanced warnings. Reconstruction cost is estimated at $5.1 million (1996 USD). [6]

Cesar making landfall in Nicaragua

Costa Rica

Like Nicaragua, Costa Rica received heavy rainfall from Cesar, leading to mudslides and widespread flooding. River flooding damaged 51 houses and washed away 213 more; 72 bridges were also destroyed. Contaminated drinking water across the country led to outbreaks of malaria and cholera. The road network was significantly damage. Damage amounted to $10 million (1996 USD), [7] and 34 people were killed. [5] Costa Rica requested international aid subsequent to the storm. At least 44 people were killed and crop damages amounted to $100 million.[8] In all, the storm caused $177 million in damages. [9]

El Salvador and Mexico

As Cesar continued westward, it produced heavy flooding and mudslides in western El Salvador, killing 9 in the community of Jose Cecilio del Valle. Four others drowned in other parts of the country. [7]

Hurricane Douglas brought up to 6 inches (150 mm) of rain on the south coast of Mexico and resulted in a 4 foot (1.2 m) storm surge, but no deaths were reported. [2]


The name Cesar was retired in the spring of 1997 and will never be used again in the Atlantic basin. It was replaced with Cristobal in the 2002 season.

Because it caused no effects on land, the name Douglas was not retired. It was reused in the 2002 Pacific hurricane season, and the 2008 Pacific hurricane season.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Avila, Lixion (August 27, 1996). "Hurricane Cesar Tropical Cyclone Report". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Hurricane Douglas leaves at least 35 dead as it crosses from Caribbean to Pacific". The Associated Press. July 30, 1996. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "Tropical Storm Puts Nicaragua on Red Alert". ReliefWeb. July 28, 1996. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  4. ^ "Nicaragua Declares Emergency After Storm". Reuters Foundation. July 29, 1996. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "ACT Hurricane Cesar Appeal". Action by Churches Together International. August 8, 1995. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Nicaragua Hurricane Cesar Situation Report No. 3, 1 August 1996". United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs. August 1, 1996. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "Hurricane Cesar Kills 28 in Central America". Reuters Foundation. July 29, 1996. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  8. ^ Associated Press (August 2, 1996). "44 Die In Costa Rica Hurricane". ReliefWeb. Retrieved August 26, 2009. 
  9. ^ Brogan, Chris (August 30, 1996). "Central America". Honduras This Week. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 

External links

Tropical cyclones of the 1996 Atlantic hurricane season
Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale
TD TS 1 2 3 4 5
Tropical cyclones of the 1996 Pacific hurricane season
Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale
TD TS 1 2 3 4 5


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