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Preliminary Report
Hurricane Fausto
10 - 14 September 1996

Miles B. Lawrence
National Hurricane Center
12 October 1996

Unnamed Tropical Storm
Tropical Depression 2-E
Hurricane Alma
Hurricane Boris
Tropical Storm Cristina
Tropical Depression 6-E
Hurricane Douglas
Tropical Storm Elida
Hurricane Fausto
Tropical Storm Genevieve
Hurricane Hernan
Tropical Depression 12-E

[1996 East Pacific Hurricane Season]

a. Synoptic History

The origin of Fausto can be traced using satellite imagery to an area of disturbed weather that was located over Venezuela on 31 August. It is possible that this disturbed weather was the southern part of a tropical wave which became Hurricane Fran in the Atlantic Ocean. The disturbed weather moved westward across Central America on 4 September and to a position centered about 200 n mi south of Acapulco Mexico on 9 September, where it began to develop a low-level circulation and considerable organized convection. It became the ninth tropical depression of 1996 in the eastern Pacific basin on the 10th while located about 200 n mi south-southeast of Manzanillo. The track of the hurricane begins here as indicated on the track chart shown in Fig. 1 (37K GIF) and as listed in Table 1.

Guided by a weak ridge near Baja California, the depression moved northwestward at about 10 knots and paralleled the coast of Mexico for the next three days. It also intensified, with a well-established outflow pattern, well-organized banding features, and, ultimately, an eye. It became a hurricane on the 11th, reached its maximum intensity with sustained winds estimated at 105 knots midday on the 12th, and turned northward while centered about 150 n mi south of the southern tip of Baja California. This northward turn and the accompanying decrease in forward speed to about 5 knots was caused by an approaching and deepening short-wave trough in the westerlies which eroded the weak ridge. The weakening hurricane made landfall near Todos los Santos on Baja California at 2000 UTC 13 September, and turning north-northeastward, it made landfall on the mainland of Mexico near Los Mochis ten hours later. The estimated sustained wind speed is 75 knots at the first landfall and 65 knots at the landfall on the mainland. Fausto quickly weakened and dissipated over the Sierra Madre mountains.

b. Meteorological Statistics

Figures 2 (24K GIF) and 3 (25K GIF) show curves of minimum sea-level pressure and maximum one-minute surface wind speed, respectively, as a function of time. All of the data plotted in these figures is based on the Dvorak satellite intensity estimating technique as applied at the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB), the Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB) and the U.S. Air Force Global Weather Central (AFGWC). The only report of tropical storm force winds from an official weather station, either on Baja California or on the mainland, was sustained winds of 35 knots with gusts to 45 knots from La Paz International Airport at 1800 UTC on the 13th, just prior to landfall. However, there were numerous observations of tropical storm force winds received via amateur radio operators from La Paz and San Jose del Cabo. The highest of these was a report of 60 knots with gusts to 75 knots from San Jose del Cabo at 1700 UTC on the 13th.

The National Meteorological Service of Mexico has made radar data operationally available on the internet. Radar data from Guasave depicted the well-defined eye for about a 12-hour period as it made landfall on Baja California and on the mainland of Mexico and this greatly assisted in the tracking of the hurricane.

Table 2 lists ship encounters with 34-knot wind speeds or higher.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

The only known death was the electrocution of a San Diego vacationer from a downed power line in a trailer park near Cabo San Lucas. The Associated Press reported that Fausto "battered" Baja California, downing power poles, smashing windows and disrupting the tourist business at Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. Waves of up to 15 feet walloped Pacific beaches along the southern tip of Baja and yachts were damaged. There was no major damage on the mainland.

There was one report of 4 inches of rainfall at Cabo San Lucas and heavy rains caused mudslides there. Similar amounts of rain may have spread inland over mainland Mexico.

d. Forecast and Warning Critique

The official track forecast errors were small for the 0- through 48-hour forecast periods, ranging up to an average of 86 n mi for eight 48-hour forecasts. However the 72-hour average error was 292 n mi for four forecasts and this is larger than the 1988-94 average of 198 n mi. The four 72-hour forecasts in question suffered a left bias by not picking up on the northward turn soon enough.

The largest intensity errors were some 35-knot under-forecasts at 24 and 36 hours during the intensification period.

Table 3 lists the various watches and warnings along with their issuance times. The hurricane watch for Baja California was issued 56 hours before landfall and the hurricane warning was issued 29 hours before landfall. On the mainland, the hurricane watch and warning were issued 27 and 21 hours, respectively, before landfall.

Table 1. Best track, Hurricane Fausto, 10 - 14 September 1996
Position Pressure
Wind Speed
Lat. (°N)Lon. (°W)
10/000014.3101.9101025 tropical depression
180015.8104.3100435 tropical storm
120027.3109.0100045 tropical storm
1800 28.0107.0100430 tropical depression
15/0000     dissipated
12/120020.5110.0955105 minimum pressure
landfall near Todos Santos on Baja California:
landfall near Los Mochis on west coast of mainland Mexico:

Table 2. Ship reports of 34 knots or higher wind speed, associated with Hurricane Fausto, September 1996.
ship namelatitude
wind dir/speed
12/15003FPM522.2109.0060/35 1007.2

Table 3. Watch and warning summary, Hurricane Fausto, September 1996.
11/2100tropical storm warning Baja California south of La Paz
11/2100hurricane watch"
12/0300hurricane warning"
12/1500hurricane warning Baja California south of 25N latitude
13/0300hurricane watch mainland Mexico from Guaymas to El Dorado
13/0900hurricane warning Baja California south of Cabo San Lazaro on the Pacific coast and south of Loreto on the Gulf of California coast
13/0900tropical storm warning Baja California from Loreto to Mulege
13/1500hurricane warning mainland Mexico from Guaymas to El Dorado
14/0300all warnings discontinued Baja California
14/1200all warnings discontinued mainland Mexico

Brian Maher
Jack Beven

Last updated December 28, 1998