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Tropical Storm Gamma and the Mosquitia of eastern Honduras: a little-known story from the 2005 hurricane season

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Abstract:

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was unprecedented in terms of storm activity in the United States, Mexico, Central America and Caribbean. Given the impacts of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Honduran Mosquitia sparked little attention despite being hit by two hurricanes and a tropical storm in 2005. This article recounts the history of these storms in the Afro-Caribbean community of Batalla, drawing from public weather advisories and testimony of local residents obtained through participatory research. We contextualise this local history with results from the first paleotempestological study undertaken in the Mosquitia to shed light on long-term risk of catastrophic storms in the region and to demonstrate the value of integrating these two research approaches. Our findings contribute to recent ethnographic research on hazards by describing how a coastal people understand and respond to tropical cyclones and how landscape change influences the vulnerability of a coastal area. Although residents have not witnessed a storm as intense as those documented in the paleotempestological record, their knowledge and perceptions show how tropical cyclones can be disasters while leaving behind no sedimentary records. The paleotempestological evidence, however, reminds us that catastrophic hurricanes have struck the Mosquitia in the past and will do so again in the future. Understanding the interactions between contemporary human perceptions and responses and long-term hurricane risk provides insight for emergency managers and local stakeholders to better prepare for such a catastrophic event.

Keywords: 2005 hurricane season; Honduras; Tropical Storm Gamma; paleotempestology; participatory research; vulnerability

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2009.00886.x

Affiliations: 1: University of Southern Mississippi, Department of Geography and Geology, Hattiesburg, MS 39406, USA, Email: David.Cochran@usm.edu 2: Louisiana State University, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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