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
was issued 29 hours before landfall. On the mainland, the hurricane
watch and warning were issued 27 and 21 hours, respectively,