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Hurricane Tara was one of the deadliest Pacific hurricanes on record. The final tropical cyclone of the 1961 Pacific hurricane season, Tara formed on November 10 about 230 mi (365 km) off the coast of Mexico. It strengthened to reach maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h) before making landfall in the Mexican state of Guerrero near Zihuatanejo. Hurricane Tara dissipated on November 12, bringing heavy rainfall and strong winds to locations inundated by 10 days of precipitation. Damage was light in the major port city of Acapulco, though further west along the coast, the effects of Tara were much worse. The city of Nuxco in Tecpán de Galeana municipality received the most damage and deaths from the hurricane. Throughout Mexico, at least 436 fatalities were reported, and damage exceeded $16 million (1961 USD, $115 million 2009 USD).

Hurricane Tara
Category 1 hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Hurricane Tara analysis 11 Nov 1961.png
Surface weather analysis of the storm near peak intensity
FormedNovember 10, 1961
DissipatedNovember 12, 1961
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 85 mph (140 km/h)
Lowest pressure996 mbar (hPa); 29.41 inHg
Fatalities436 total
Damage$16 million (1961 USD)
Areas affectedSouthern Mexico
Part of the 1961 Pacific hurricane season

Meteorological historyEdit

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

On November 9, a weak circulation remained nearly stationary off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico. While the system did not have significant convection, it organized enough to be considered a tropical cyclone at 0000 UTC on November 10, about 230 mi (365 km) off the coast of Mexico.[1][2] By the afternoon of the 10th, it was a tropical depression moving northeastward toward the coastline.[1] Tara intensified, reaching hurricane status and its peak intensity of 85 mph (140 km/h) late on November 11.[1][2] Early on November 12, Hurricane Tara made landfall near Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, between Acapulco and Manzanillo, near where Hurricane Iva moved ashore five months earlier. Continuing inland, it was last observed at 1200 UTC on November 12.[2] At the time, it was known as Cyclone Tara, as the term cyclone was the more common equivalent for hurricane in the region.[3]

Impact and aftermathEdit

Known Pacific hurricanes that have killed at least 100 people
Hurricane Season Fatalities Ref.
"Mexico" 1959 1,800 [4]
Paul 1982 1,625 [5][6][7][8]
Liza 1976 1,263 [9][10][11]
Tara 1961 436 [12]
Aletta 1982 308 [13][14]
Pauline 1997 230–400 [15]
Agatha 2010 190 [16][17]
Manuel 2013 169 [18]
Tico 1983 141 [19][20]
Ismael 1995 116 [21]
"Baja California" 1931 110 [22][23]
"Mazatlán" 1943 100 [24]
Lidia 1981 100 [17]

Hurricane Tara caused severe damage in southern Guerrero where it moved ashore, wrecking at least 10 communities. Heavy rainfall from Tara exacerbated flooding in the area, which was caused by ten days of precipitation preceding the hurricane; the heavy rainfall contaminated drinking water.[25] Strong waves killed a surfer in the Acapulco area. In the city, low-lying areas were inundated with water, causing in excess of $1 million in damage (1961 USD).[26] In nearby Tecpán de Galeana, the hurricane killed 116 people, and dozens more were killed in other close villages.[25] Elsewhere in Guerrero, the coastal highway between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo received heavy damage, which later hampered relief efforts;[26] the highway was a priority for storm repairs, with crews working continuously for several days to restore the vital link.[3] Many deaths were reported in coastal towns of Guerrero, although exact death tolls were initially unknown,[26] with many of the towns covered in mud.[25] People received little warning of the hurricane, and many people died while sleeping.[27] In addition, thousands were left homeless by the storm.[28] According to radio reports, a hurricane-related waterspout wrecked the city of Nuxco,[26] although the damage was later described as flooding from a lagoon;[29] 225 deaths were reported in Nuxco.[25] Food supplies were depleted in some coastal communities, forcing residents to rely on coconuts that were downed during the hurricane.[25] Overall crop damage in Mexico was unofficially estimated at $16 million (1961 USD, $115 million 2009 USD).[27]

By two days after the storm, the government of Mexico sent two airplanes to Acapulco,[30] where the food, clothing, and medicine were distributed by truck or helicopter to the affected areas.[26] The Mexican government arranged plans to drop food and medical aid into isolated villages,[3] although food supplies were initially insufficient for the great number of people affected by the storm.[27] Five army units and three helicopters were sent to the region to assist in the aftermath,[29] although planes encountered difficulties in landing due to flooded runways.[26] Army soldiers were responsible for rescue operations, while paratroopers were sent to the most affected areas to distribute aid.[25] Despite fears of the spread of disease in the aftermath, prompt work by medical officials prevented any epidemics due to the storm.[31]

The exact death toll was unknown, but believed to be several hundred. About two days after the storm, the official death toll was more than 80.[32] By three days after the storm, the toll rose to 190,[29] and by four days after it made landfall, the official total was 290 deaths; officials estimated the toll could have exceeded 500.[25] Due to downed communications, reports of storm fatalities were slow to spread, though news became more rapid as links were repaired. On November 19, a week after the storm struck, the Mexican Army set the final death toll at 436 deaths, with 300 missing;[3] the death toll was later reported by the United States Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in 1993.[33] Overall, Hurricane Tara was the deadliest disaster in 1961,[31] as well as the third deadliest Mexico Pacific hurricane on record, after a hurricane in 1959 and Hurricane Liza in 1976.[34]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c United States Weather Bureau (1961). Tropical Cyclones in the Eastern North Pacific, 1961. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  2. ^ a b c Hurricane Research Division (2009). "Eastern North Pacific Tracks File 1949-2008". National Hurricane Center. Archived from the original on April 1, 2009. Retrieved 2008-05-28. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d Staff Writer (1961-11-19). "Mexican Cyclone Areas Win Relief By Airlift". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
  4. ^ Natural Hazards of North America. Supplement to National Geographic magazine (Map). National Geographic Society. April 1998.
  5. ^ "More Flood Victims found". The Spokesman-Review. September 28, 1982. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  6. ^ "More flood victims found". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. September 28, 1982. p. 12. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  7. ^ "Mexico - Disaster Statistics". Prevention Web. 2008. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  8. ^ "24 killed from hurricane". The Hour. October 1, 1982. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
  9. ^ "Mexico gives up to try and find storm victims". Bangor Daily News. United Press International. October 6, 1976. p. 8. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  10. ^ "Hurricane Liza rips Mexico". Beaver County Times. United Press International. October 2, 1976. p. 18. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  11. ^ "Historias y Anecdotas de Yavaros". Ecos del mayo (in Spanish). June 14, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  12. ^ Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (August 1993). "Significant Data on Major Disasters Worldwide 1900-present" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-03-25.
  13. ^ "Nicaragua seeks aid as flood victims kill 108". The Montreal Gazette. May 28, 1982. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
  14. ^ "Canada Aids Victims". The Leader-Post. June 10, 1982. Retrieved September 17, 2011.
  15. ^ Miles B. Lawrence (1997). "Hurricane Pauline Tropical Cyclone Report". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2007-01-02.
  16. ^ Jack L. Beven (January 10, 2011). "Tropical Storm Agatha Tropical Cyclone Report" (PDF). National Hurricane Center. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  17. ^ a b Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. "EM-DAT: The Emergency Events Database". Université catholique de Louvain.
  18. ^ Steve Jakubowski; Adityam Krovvidi; Adam Podlaha; Steve Bowen. "September 2013 Global Catasrophe Recap" (PDF). Impact Forecasting. AON Benefield. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  19. ^ Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development (1989). "Disaster History: Significant Data on Major Disasters Worldwide, 1900-Present". Retrieved 2008-11-14.
  20. ^ "Oklahoma residents clean up in Hurricane's wake". The Evening independent. October 22, 1983. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
  21. ^ Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (2006). "Impacto Socioeconómico de los Ciclones Tropicales 2005" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved 2006-11-09.
  22. ^ Associated Press (1931-11-17). "Hurricane Toll Reaches 100 in Mexico Blow". The Evening Independent. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  23. ^ "World News". The Virgin Islands Daily News. 1931-09-18. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  24. ^ Howard C. Sumner (1944-01-04). "1943 Monthly Weather Review" (PDF). U.S. Weather Bureau. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-07.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Staff Writer (1961-11-14). "Toll in Mexico Hurricane May Run As High as 500". United Press International. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
  26. ^ a b c d e f Staff Writer (1961-11-14). "80 Killed in Hurricane Lashing Mexican Coast". United Press International. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  27. ^ a b c Staff Writer (1961-11-18). "Mexico Struck Hard By Storm". Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 25, 2016. Retrieved 2009-05-10. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  28. ^ Tony Burton (2008-03-14). "Mexico this month — November". MexConnect. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
  29. ^ a b c Staff Writer (1961-11-15). "190 Dead in Mexico Storm". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  30. ^ Staff Writer (1961-11-14). "Mexico Counts Storm Dead". United Press International. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  31. ^ a b Staff Writer (1962-01-01). "Mexican Cyclone Worst Tragedy". United Press International. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
  32. ^ Staff Writer (1961-11-18). "200 Dead or Missing in Mexico Storm". United Press International. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  33. ^ Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (August 1993). "Significant Data on Major Disasters Worldwide 1900-present" (PDF). p. 140. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
  34. ^ Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (2007). "Riesgos Hidrometeorológicos" (in Spanish). Secretaría de Gobernación. Retrieved 2009-05-10.