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AIR Worldwide : Hurricane Barbara makes landfall, brings op to 16 inches of rain

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According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, Hurricane Barbara, the second hurricane of the 2013 Pacific season, made landfall in the state of Chiapas on Mexico’s Pacific coast on Wednesday, May 29, at 12:50 p.m., local time (19:50 UTC), about 20 miles west of Tonala. It managed to reach hurricane status with 75 mph winds at 11 a.m., local time, on Wednesday, less than two hours before making landfall. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Barbara was the easternmost East Pacific landfall since at least 1966, as well as the second earliest landfall in that period. AIR expects insured losses from this storm to be minimal as a result of Barbara’s relatively low wind speeds and because the storm made landfall in a sparsely populated stretch of the Mexican coast.

Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the Pacific coast from Puerto Angel to Barra de Tonala, and the ports of Puerto Angel, Puerto Escondido, and Huatulco have been closed to navigation. The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression at 2 a.m., local time (9:00 UTC), today, Thursday, May 30, and continues to weaken quickly. The Government of Mexico has discontinued all warnings. Barbara is moving northward over land at about 8 mph over the isthmus of Tehuantepec.

“Excessive rainfall and flooding have impacted some areas of southeastern Mexico,” said Dr. Tim Doggett, senior principal scientist, AIR Worldwide. “The storm’s slow forward speed is prolonging the duration of precipitation in many areas, allowing rainfall accumulations in excess of 6 to 10 inches. In locations in and around mountainous areas, upslope flow will enhance the precipitation rates, and localized areas may see accumulations of 15 to 20 inches. As much as 16 inches of rainfall has already been reported in Arriaga, Chiapas state. These high rainfall amounts will lead to localized flooding along rivers and low-lying areas. As Barbara moves northward and weakens, the precipitation will decline.”

The heavy rains have already flooded roads, toppled trees and power lines. Power outages in Oaxaca state have been reported, where evacuations were carried out as a precaution.

According to AIR, the predominant construction types for insured residential and commercial buildings are masonry and concrete, which have slab roofs resistant to uplift from winds. Most apartment buildings in Mexico are masonry, with the exception of high-rise apartments, which are generally made of reinforced concrete. Mexico has no national building code, and it is estimated that about half of all new homes are built without permits. Wind damage to engineered structures at Category 1 wind speeds is expected to be limited to cladding and roof coverings, but non-engineered structures will likely experience damage beyond cladding and roof coverings, including structural roof elements.