||This article needs attention from an expert on the subject. (March 2010)|
|Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)|
|Formed||November 5, 2008|
|Dissipated||November 14, 2008|
|(Extratropical after November 9, 2008)|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained: 145 mph (230 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||944 mbar (hPa); 27.88 inHg|
|Damage||$454.5 million (2008 USD)|
|Areas affected||Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, Isle of Youth, Florida|
|Part of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season|
Hurricane Paloma was the seventeenth tropical cyclone, sixteenth tropical storm, eighth hurricane and fifth major hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. It was a late season hurricane, setting several records for its intensity and formation. Paloma was the third most powerful November hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin, behind only a 1932 hurricane and 1999's Lenny. It also marked the first time that at least 1 major hurricane formed in every month of the hurricane season from July to November, with only June not having a major hurricane this season.
Paloma developed out of a strong tropical disturbance off the eastern coast of Nicaragua and northern coast of Honduras on November 5. The disturbance had slowly developed into a tropical depression while hugging the coastline. The depression strengthened into a tropical storm early on November 6, then a hurricane later that day. The next day, Paloma intensified into a Category 2 hurricane then soon a Category 3. Early on November 8, Paloma continued to intensify and reached Category 4 intensity, and then weakened rapidly into a Category 2 before making landfall in Santa Cruz del Sur, Cuba. Paloma weakened into a tropical storm on November 9 while moving over Cuba, where it stalled out. It dissipated later that evening. Hurricane Paloma caused heavy damage in both the Cayman Islands and Cuba. Damages in the Caymans amounted to $154.4 million (USD), and damages in Cuba totaled to $300 million (USD), and $100,000 in damage to Jamaica, for a total of $454.5 million (USD), with 1 fatality.
Due to the damage caused by the storm in the Cayman Islands and Cuba, on April 22, 2009 the World Meteorological Organization retired the name Paloma from its rotating name lists. It will be replaced with Paulette in 2014.
The wave that became Paloma moved west off the coast of Africa on October 23. The system became a low pressure system and remained steady on November 1 while in the southwestern Caribbean sea. On November 3, scattered convection formed along the circulation, which was poor defined. Convective banding became better organized, most of it drifted north-eastward due to the influence of the upper level winds. The low pressure area became a swirl of clouds and begin to show signs of organization while moving toward the northwest. The next day, it developed a low level circulation but remained exposed as its convection drifted northeastward. However, convective banding began to wrap around its center as it began to intensify but remained disorganized until the next day, when the disturbance became a depression- the seventeenth of the season. On November 6, cirrus outflow became circular around the center. Later that day, the depression strengthened into a tropical storm, and was named Paloma about 200 miles south-southwest of Grand Cayman. Paloma began to give heavy rainfall as is brushed through the coast line of Honduras and Nicaragua. Later that day, Paloma developed an eye like feature although its deep convection diminished as its deep outflow began to take place. Paloma headed northward, and strengthened into a hurricane according to supporting data from a NOAA buoy by the evening of November 6. Its circulation became even better organized but remained a relatively small hurricane. Gradual strengthening continued on November 7, and Paloma became a Category 2 hurricane that afternoon with its eye defined on the satellite. It continued to strengthen, but at a more rapid pace and became a Category 3 hurricane that evening, while passing very close to the south shore of Grand Cayman, with only minor damage reported. Paloma then took a more easterly turn, and became a Category 4 hurricane early on November 8, being the first Category 4 in November since 2001's Michelle, and was approaching Little Cayman and Cayman Brac at this time. The center of Paloma passed directly over the two islands that morning with 140 mph (220 km/h) winds, causing heavy damage.
Paloma continued eastward, and reached its peak intensity of 145 mph (230 km/h) on the morning of November 8, making it officially the third most powerful November hurricane by wind speed in recorded history, behind only the 1932 Cuba hurricane and Hurricane Lenny in 1999. Paloma held steady in intensity until late that afternoon, but as wind shear increased and most of its convection drifted away from the center. It suddenly weakened to a Category 2 hurricane just before making landfall near Santa Cruz del Sur, Cuba that evening. Paloma stuck the same area on the same day, and around the same time that the aforementioned 1932 hurricane did 76 years earlier. After making landfall, Paloma rapidly weakened over Cuba, both due to strong wind shear and land interaction. It rapidly slowed in movement after making landfall, and strong shear dissipated most of its convection, leaving only its low- and mid-level circulation. It weakened into a tropical storm early on November 9 and downgraded to a tropical depression that afternoon while stalling over the area. That evening, Paloma weakened into a remnant low. Very strong shear and cold water made the remnant loop and move back into the Caribbean, crossing Western Cuba. Convection developed and its remnant low reached the Florida Panhandle by November 14 which caused heavy rain in the area. The remnant low from Paloma dissipated on November 14, having been absorbed by a front without re-developing.
At 1500 UTC on November 6, the Government of the Cayman Islands issued a Hurricane Watch for all the islands. Six hours later, the watch was upgraded to a warning as hurricane conditions were expected to impact the islands within 24 hours. The warnings remained in place until 1500 UTC on November 8 when it was discontinued for Grand Cayman. By 2100 UTC the warnings were discontinued for the remainder of the islands. As Paloma approached the Cayman Islands while intensifying, residents and tourists were evacuated from low-lying areas and the airport was closed. Paloma was a category 4 hurricane when the cyclone’s eye passed just to the southeast of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, with the northwestern eyewall passing over the eastern end of Cayman Brac. At its peak intensity, Paloma became the third-strongest November Atlantic hurricane on record; only the 1932 Cuba hurricane and Hurricane Lenny (1999) were stronger. On Cayman Brac an unofficial anemometer at an elevation of 73 meters above sea level measured a sustained wind of 131 kt/150.752 mph around 1200 UTC 8 November, near the time of Paloma’s maximum intensity. The British ship RFA Wave Ruler was sent to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac for humanitarian assistance, on the order of Governor Stuart Jack. About 100 people were evacuated to shelters on the islands as Paloma neared.
In Sancti Spiritus Province in Cuba, over 85,000 students were evacuated from low-lying areas ahead of the projected arrival of Paloma, and more evacuations are expected. In the central-eastern province of Camagüey alone, more than 220,000 people had been moved from low-lying areas to higher ground. Another 170,000 people were evacuated in the eastern province of Las Tunas.
Although Paloma was not forecast to directly impact Jamaica, officials opened 15 priority shelters in St. James and all agencies were placed under high-alert.
Honduras and Nicaragua
As Paloma strengthened into a hurricane, outer bands of the storm produced heavy rains over parts of coastal Honduras and Nicaragua. TRMM satellites estimated that Paloma dropped upwards of 8 inches (200 mm) of rain along the coastline. The rains in Honduras left several thousand people homeless, with at least 70,000 people left homeless after other storms during the year.
Damage in Grand Cayman, for the most part, was not severe. There were reports of downed trees and power lines and some flooding was reported, however, all the main roads were passable. The electrical system on the island was partly damaged.  Cayman Brac, to the east of Grand Cayman, experienced hurricane force winds that blew roofs off some buildings, although there were no reports of casualties, according to the Hazard Management Committee. A sustained wind report of 151 mph (242 km/h) was reported on that island. Some Cayman Brac residents sought refuge in an emergency shelter where the roof partially collapsed. Torrential rains from Paloma peaked at 17.77 inches (451 mm) on Cayman Brac with a storm surge up to 8 feet (2.4 m). The District Commissioner of Cayman Brac said that 90 percent of the buildings were damaged and that about 500 people had taken refuge in shelters. The total cost of the damages amounted to $15 million (2008 USD) in the Cayman Islands.
Flooding was reported in parts of Jamaica as a result of the outer bands of Paloma. One person drowned in Clarendon Parish while crossing a flooded river. Severe flooding also destroyed crops in 100 farms, causing over $100,000 in damages. In St. Catherine, several inches of rain caused flooding in Bog Walk Gorge which inundated several homes and stranded at least 15 people. Numerous vehicles were washed away in the floods.
Cuban utility officials say Paloma's effect on the power grid was not as bad as the destruction caused by Gustav and Ike earlier in the season. Paloma did, however knock down power and telephone lines, as well as a major communications tower. The hurricane brought with it a 14 foot (4 meter) storm surge which moved the coastline inland by almost a mile (about 1.5 km) in Santa Cruz del Sur, doing extensive damage.
In Santa Cruz del Sur where Paloma came ashore, 435 homes were torn to shreds. The sea swept more than a mile inland. The wind and waves left wooden houses in splinters, topped with seaweed. Two of the two-story concrete walls of a factory crumbled into piles of rubble, smashing 57 wooden fishing boats stored inside for safekeeping. An estimated 328 hectares of crops were destroyed by the storm, most of which were in the process of recovery following Hurricane Ike. A total of 8,000 homes in Santa Cruz were damaged and another 670 in Camaguey and Las Tunas. About 7,000 farmers and 4,700 residences were isolated by floodwaters. Overall damages in Cuba totaled to $300 million. The government has reported no Paloma-related deaths, but a dissident group has informed that one person died in the storm.
After tracking through the Gulf of Mexico, the remnants of Paloma reached the Florida Panhandle on November 14. Shortly before crossing the coastline, convection suddenly and explosively developed, contributing to a swath of heavy rains. The highest amount was recorded in Bloxham at 9.25 inches (235 mm) which contributed to flash flooding. Unofficial radar observations indicated rainfall totals up to 14 inches (360 mm). The torrential rains marked the highest rainfall for November 14 in the state of Florida. After weakening, the energy from Paloma continued inland, possibly contributing to a deadly tornado outbreak in the Carolinas. Flood waters south of Tallahassee reached 2 feet (0.61 m) in places, stranding vehicles. One person was trapped by flood waters but was rescued without injury.
Local groups in the Cayman Islands set up funds following Hurricane Paloma. By March 3, 2009, one group raised $120,000 in relief funds and received another $20,000 in donations. Following the storm, the British Red Cross released £15,000 (US$23,500) in emergency funds. The Government of the Cayman Islands and the Adventist Disaster Response Agency distributed basic relief items such as tarpaulins, hygiene items and buckets to victims of the storm.
Already severely impacted by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, the European Commission, through its Humanitarian Aid department was already providing € 2 million (US$2.7 million) in relief aid. By November 21, about 6,000 volunteers from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were in Cuba assisting in cleanup efforts and helping victims in shelters. The organization also allocated US$8.8 million in relief funds for 60,000 people affected by Paloma.
Paloma is one of seven major hurricanes recorded in the month of November — the others were the seventh storm of 1912, the Cuba hurricane of 1932, Hurricane Greta in 1956, Hurricane Kate in 1985, Hurricane Lenny in 1999 and Hurricane Michelle in 2001. Also, when it reached Category 3 intensity on November 7, the 2008 season was the first on record to have at least one major hurricane form in each of July, August, September, October and November, becoming the first hurricane season on record to have a major hurricane form in five different months of the hurricane season. On November 8, Paloma became the fifth hurricane to reach Category 4 strength in the month of November—a feat previously accomplished only by the Cuba Hurricane, Greta, Lenny and Michelle—and is the second-latest-forming storm to reach Category 4 strength. In terms of wind, Paloma is the third strongest November hurricane, behind the 1932 hurricane and Lenny.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hurricane Paloma.|
|Wikinews has related news: Hurricane Paloma hits Cuba|
- HPC rainfall page for 2008 Tropical Cyclones
- National Hurricane Center Website
- National Hurricane Center's Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlook
- Video of damage in Cuba caused by Hurricane Paloma