Hurricane Marty (2003)

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Hurricane Marty
Category 2 hurricane ( SSHS)
Hurricane Marty over the Gulf of California on September 22, 2003

Hurricane Marty over the Gulf of California on September 22, 2003
Formed September 18, 2003
Dissipated September 22, 2003
100 mph (175 km/h) (1-minute sustained)
Lowest pressure 973 mbar ( hPa)
Damage $50.5 million (2003 USD)
$53 million (2005 USD)
Fatalities 12 direct
Baja California Peninsula, Sonora, Sinaloa, Arizona
Part of the
2003 Pacific hurricane season

Hurricane Marty was the deadliest tropical cyclone of the 2003 Pacific hurricane season. Forming on September 18, it became the 13th tropical storm and fourth hurricane of the year. The storm moved generally northwestward and steadily intensified despite only a marginally favorable environment for development, and became a Category 2 hurricane before making two landfalls on the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico.

The hurricane was responsible for significant flooding and storm surges that caused $50.5 million (2003 USD) in damage, mostly on the peninsula of Baja California, and resulted in the deaths of 12 people. Marty affected many of the same areas that had been affected by Hurricane Ignacio a month earlier.

Storm history

Storm path
Storm path

A tropical wave moved into the Pacific Ocean from Central America on September 10. Convection along the wave became better organized as it moved westward, and a tropical depression developed on September 18. The depression moved generally west-northwestward before strengthening into Tropical Storm Marty on September 19. The storm entrained dry air into its circulation as it curved toward the northwest, disrupting the storm's convective structure and inhibiting further intensification for the next two days. Eventually, Marty fought off the dry air and intensified, reaching hurricane strength on September 21.

Marty began moving north-northwestward in response to a high pressure ridge to the west, and continued to strengthen, reaching a peak intensity of 100 mph (175 km/h) early on September 22. Marty then moved northward at an increased speed before making landfall 10 mi (15 km) northeast of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur later that day. After making landfall, Marty turned back to the north-northwest, moving parallel to the eastern coast of the peninsula, and weakening to a tropical storm on the 23rd. Marty then stalled over the Gulf of California after encountering a high pressure system over the U.S. state of Nevada, and further weakened to a tropical depression before making a second landfall near Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, on the 24th. Marty became a remnant low pressure area on the 25th, and moved erratically over the northern Gulf of California for the next two days before drifting southwestward and dissipating over the northern Baja California Peninsula on the 26th.


Fearing a repeat of the damage left by Hurricane Ignacio a month earlier, many residents stocked up on supplies, secured their homes and evacuated to emergency shelters. The government of Mexico issued hurricane warnings for areas of the eastern coast of the Baja California Peninsula and the west coast of the mainland on September 21. Tropical storm warnings were issued for the Mexican coastline to the Colorado River on the 23rd, but were discontinued later that day. Forecasters also predicted that the hurricane might cause 4 – 6 feet (122 – 182 cm) of storm surge, 8 inches (20.3 cm) of rain, serious flash flooding, and mudslides. Many schools and tourist destinations were used as emergency shelters and most seaports and airports were closed down. Across the Gulf of California, in the state of Sonora, authorities of the municipality of Empalme monitored the status of the Punta de Agua dam, located 30 km (20 mi) upstream of the municipal seat, which threatened to overtop and flood the city. As a result, 300 residents were evacuated to shelters in higher ground.


Baja California Peninsula

About 8 to 11 inches (20–28 cm) of rain fell in areas of the Baja California Peninsula, with the largest 24-hour rainfall total ocurring at Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, where 197.5 mm (7.77 in) of rain fell. Numerous ships offshore reported tropical storm and hurricane force winds, and an automated weather station in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, reported sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h) with gusts to 115 mph (185 km/h). Santa Rosalía, Baja California Sur, reported 7.8 inches (19.8 cm) of rain..

Five people drowned after their cars were swept away by floodwaters while trying to cross a flooded stream. The floods also damaged 4,000-6,000 homes and buildings and significantly disrupted water and communications for an extended period of time. The hurricane's storm surge damaged many boats and yachts in ports along the peninsula's coast, most of them beyond repair. Minor beach erosion was reported at San Felipe, Baja California. As a result, the Baja California Sur municipalities of La Paz, Los Cabos, Loreto, Comondú and Mulegé were declared national disaster areas.

Mainland Mexico

On the mainland, the largest daily rainfall total occurred on Sebampo, Sonora, which recorded 171.0 mm (6.73 in) of rain. Five fishermen drowned when their fishing boat sank in the Gulf of California, off the coast of Sonora. Also in that state, the University of Sonora suspended operations in its Navojoa campus. Two more people died when a tree fell on a car in Sinaloa. Heavy rainfall caused moderate to severe flash flooding in Sonora and Sinaloa, although damage was not as severe or as extensive as on the Baja California peninsula. Los Mochis, Sinaloa, reported sustained winds of 45 mph (70 km/h) on September 22.

Southwestern United States

Rainfall totals from Marty
Rainfall totals from Marty

The outer bands of Marty brought locally heavy rains to extreme southwestern Arizona, but there were no reports of flooding. The highest rain total was 2.25 inches (5.7 cm) at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. Rainfall extended eastward into Texas, where a storm peak of 3.09 inches of rain occurred in Tankersly.

Because the damage caused by Marty was not extreme, the name of the storm was not retired from the rotating Pacific hurricane name lists, and will reused in the 2009 season.

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