Tropical Storm Alma (1974)
|Tropical storm (SSHWS/NWS)|
|Formed||August 12, 1974|
|Dissipated||August 15, 1974|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained: 65 mph (100 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||1007 mbar (hPa); 29.74 inHg|
|Damage||$5 million (1974 USD)|
|Areas affected||Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela|
|Part of the 1974 Atlantic hurricane season|
Tropical Storm Alma, the first named storm to develop in the 1974 Atlantic hurricane season, was a short lived tropical cyclone that made a rare Venezuelan landfall. The storm formed from the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) on August 12 well to the east of the Windward Islands, but advisories were not issued until the next day when Alma was at peak intensity. Subsequently, Alma moved at an unusually brisk pace of between 20 mph (32 km/h) to 25 mph (40 km/h) through the southeastern Caribbean Sea, causing numerous watches and gale warnings to be issued throughout the Caribbean. Alma moved quickly over Trinidad and continued westward, becoming one of only four storms to cross the Paria Peninsula of northeastern Venezuela. The storm dissipated on August 15 over the high terrain of Venezuela.
The storm left heavy damage in Trinidad, amounting to about $5 million (1974 USD), making it the most destructive cyclone of the 20th century on the island at the time. Alma damaged about 5,000 buildings, leaving 500 people homeless. The storm also wrecked about 17,750 acres (7,180 ha) of crop fields. There were two deaths in Trinidad, including one who was struck by flying debris. Alma was also responsible for a plane crash on Isla Margarita offshore Venezuela, killing 49 people on board due to heavy rainfall.
A disturbance associated with the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) left the coast of Africa on August 9, with Dakar, Senegal reporting mid-level winds of 75 mph (120 km/h). A weak circulation formed on August 10 within an area of thunderstorms. The disturbance moved slowly westward over the Atlantic Ocean, developing into a tropical depression at 18:00 UTC on August 12 around 10° north latitude, a latitude it would remain around throughout its lifetime. On August 13, the depression intensified into Tropical Storm Alma about 375 mi (605 km) east of Trinidad and Tobago, as indicated by a Hurricane Hunters flight reporting winds of 65 mph (105 km/h). This same flight also reported a circular eye with a diameter of 36 mi (58 km), the only report of an eye from this storm.
The center of Alma was elongated, causing gale-force winds to extend 75 mi (120 km) to the north while extending only 25 miles (40 km) to the south. On August 14 the Hurricane Hunters reported gusts of 80 mph (130 km/h); however, the storm weakened after its initial peak. Alma continued westward at 23 mph (37 km/h), which National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Neil Frank noted was unusually rapid for a tropical cyclone at this time and location. Alma was able to maintain its low latitude movement to the west due to a strong subtropical ridge, which was at an unusually lower latitude than expected in August.
On August 14, the storm made landfall on Trinidad with winds of 55 mph (90 km/h), becoming the southernmost landfall on that island since a storm in 1933. The storm moved across Trinidad in only three hours, although the circulation was disrupted. The storm crossed the Gulf of Paria and made its second and final landfall on the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela, one of only four storms on record to do so; the others were in 1605, 1725, and 1933. The high mountains in Venezuela took a toll on the storm, ripping the circulation and causing Alma to be downgraded to a tropical depression on August 15. At around 02:00 UTC that day, the circulation passed near Caracas. The convection rapidly diminished, and the presence on satellite imagery faded, although the NHC noted the potential for redevelopment once it reached open waters. Late on August 15, the NHC issued the final advisory after the circulation dissipated near the border of Venezuela and Colombia. The remnants of Alma continued westward, reaching the Pacific Ocean where they would re-intensify, becoming Hurricane Joyce.
Preparations, impact, and aftermath
Before Alma made landfall, gale warnings and a hurricane watch was issued for Trinidad, Tobago, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados. As Alma progressed westward, gale warnings were also issued for the Paria and Paraguaná peninsulas of Venezuela, the Guajira Peninsula, and the ABC islands. Initially, the Trinidad and Tobago weather service anticipated Alma would strike Tobago, but as the storm approached, the trajectory over Trinidad became apparent.
While moving across Trinidad, Alma produced sustained winds of only 35 mph (56 km/h) at Piarco. However, gusts reached 91 mph (147 km/h) at Savonetta. Rainfall at Piarco reached about 1 inch (25 mm) during the storm's passage. Strong winds downed trees and power lines, and damaged about 5,000 buildings, including hundreds of households, wrecking everything inside; this left about 500 people homeless. There was also widespread damage to agriculture, mostly to sugar, amounting to 17,750 acres (7,180 ha) of damaged fields. The storm damaged several highways in the country, along with damaged schools and hospitals. The winds flung debris from a roof of a house and struck a woman, killing her. There was also an indirect death on the island, along with several injuries. Damage on the island was estimated at $5 million (1974 USD), and Alma was considered the most destructive storm in Trinidad during the 20th century, according to the American embassy in the country. After the storm, the local Red Cross chapter provided meals and clothing to thousands of storm victims. The government allocated $5.1 million (Trinidad and Tobago dollars) for relief work, to be coordinated by the National Emergency Relief Organization of Trinidad and Tobago, which was established following the damaging Hurricane Flora in 1963. This helped rebuild damage houses, clear roads, and assist affected farmers. The United States Agency for International Development sent about $5,000 (USD) in assistance, after the country's ambassador sent a formal request to Washington, D.C. The Amoco oil company also sent a $500 (USD) donation to the country's Red Cross.
While moving through the Windward Islands, Alma also produced strong wind gusts on Grenada. The outer rainbands of Alma spread over Venezuela while the center was still over Trinidad. At about 13:00 UTC on August 14, the rains caused a Linea Aeropostal Venezolana Vickers Viscount 749 turboprop airliner to crash while circling the airport on Isla Margarita. The aircraft struck the side of La Gloria, 26 ft (8 m) below the summit. All but one of the 49 people aboard died on impact; the co-pilot survived for 17 more days before dying from severe and irreversible brain damage. Also in Venezuela, Alma produced landslides due to heavy rainfall.
- Tropical Storm Alma (disambiguation) - other storms of the same name
- 1933 Trinidad hurricane - Early-season hurricane that moved across Trinidad and northeastern Venezuela
- Tropical Storm Bret (1993) - Another low-latitude tropical storm that made landfall on Venezuela
- Hurricane Joyce (2000) - Low-latitude hurricane that passed between Trinidad and Tobago
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