Lost in the shuffle of the busy peak of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has been Hurricane Katia. While this storm no longer appears on the National Hurricane Center’s website, it brought heavy rain, winds, and mudslides to the Mexican mountains. It was also part of Mother Nature’s one-two punch for the nation, with an 8.1 magnitude earthquake occurring as Katia made its approach.
Hurricane Katia began as a group of disorganized thunderstorms over the Bay of Campeche near the Yucatan Peninsula. In an area with very weak steering currents, few expected much to come out of this cluster, with perhaps a weak tropical storm being its peak opportunity to develop. However, with the same warm sea surface temperatures that helped fuel Hurricane Harvey just a few weeks prior, and low wind shear, Katia was born on September 6. Later that the day, the storm would be upgraded to a hurricane, when the Hurricane Hunters recorded a wind speed of 76 mph inside the storm.
Katia would reach a maximum intensity of a Category 2 hurricane before making landfall near Tecolutla, Mexico. The storm was still drifting mostly, without the upper air dynamics to steer it in any particular direction. This would make Katia a major rainmaker over central Mexico, including the towering mountains that will commonly lead to mudslides following landfalling tropical cyclones. Two sadly perished in these slides in eastern Mexico.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for many from Hurricane Katia will be the reminder that storms and weather phenomena continue around the world, even when they are not impacting the United States. While Katia never reached the strength or damaging levels of Irma, it is still a storm worth noting for its rainfall and damage caused to Mexico.
Stay tuned for more updates throughout the remainder of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season for more about storm development, threats, and impacts.