Hurricane Mitch, Central America

Background

Aerial view of debris flow

Flooding and debris flows along the Rio Choluteca, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

On October 24, 1998, Atlantic Tropical Storm Mitch was upgraded to a hurricane that developed into one of the strongest and most damaging storms to ever hit the Caribbean and Central America.  At its height on October 26 and 27, the hurricane had sustained winds of 180 mph and dumped heavy rains over Central America.  Although the winds diminished as Hurricane Mitch traveled inland over Honduras on October 30, the storm continued to produce torrential rains, reaching a rate of more than 4 inches per hour, which caused catastrophic floods and landslides throughout the region.

Vulcan Casita

Vulcan Casita in Nicaragua - debris flows caused extensive damage. Visit the USGS Volcano Hazards Program for more information about Vulcan Casita

Honduras suffered the brunt of Hurricane Mitch. After being stalled for more than two days off the country's northern coast, the storm traveled inland during October 30 and 31.  Extensive wind damage and devastating floods occurred nationwide, but particularly on the northern seaboard and in the Bay Islands (located off the northern coast of Honduras, in the Caribbean).  It was reported that 6,600 persons were killed, 8,052 injured and 11,998 were missing. Approximately 1.4 million persons were left homeless. More than 92 bridges had been damaged or destroyed, and nearly 70 percent of crops were destroyed.

In response to this event, the U.S. Geological Survey was called on to help assess and map the landslide damage and to provide technical landslide mitigation expertise to the governments of 4 Central American countries impacted by Mitch.