As if to make up for the season’s slow start, the first hurricane of the 2007 Atlantic season took only one week to climb from “tropical depression” status on August 13 to Category 4 on August 20, 2007. As Hurricane Dean blustered through the Caribbean Sea, it brought significant flooding first to Haiti and then Jamaica, despite the fact that the storm’s eye remained south of the islands. The 5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time forecast from the National Hurricane Center on August 20 predicted that Dean would reach Category 5 status—the top end of the hurricane intensity scale—before landfall on the Yucatan.
This image of Hurricane Dean arriving at the Yucatan is a combination of observations from NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) satellites. The clouds, including Hurricane Dean, were observed by a NOAA geostationary weather satellite (GOES-12) at 2:45 p.m. local time in Belize (on the Yucatan Peninsula) on August 20. The land surface is a summertime image from the NASA Blue Marble image collection. Hurricane Dean fills the western Caribbean, and the outermost bands of spiraling clouds are already brushing the coasts of the Yucatan in the west and Cuba in the north.
The storm was so large and powerful that it was likely to remain at hurricane strength even as it passed over land. As of the evening of August 20, hurricane warnings were issued not just for the east coast of the Yucatan, but the west coast as well. Chances were good that the storm would re-intensify when it emerged in the Gulf of Mexico, probably even to “major” (Category 3 or higher) status before making a second landfall in Mexico. In addition to its battering winds, Dean was forecast to bring up to 20 inches of rainfall to parts of Mexico and Central America and to create storm surges from 12-18 feet above normal tide levels along portions of the eastern Yucatan coast.
NASA image by Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, based on data from NOAA GOES. Blue Marble imagery by NASA’s Earth Observatory Team.