1976 Pacific hurricane season

The 1976 Pacific hurricane season was an ongoing event in tropical cyclone formation. Hurricanes Kathleen, Liza, and Madeline are the most notable storms this year. Hurricane Kathleen caused death and destruction in California and Arizona due to flooding. Hurricane Liza was the deadliest storm of the season when it killed over 600 people in Mexico. Hurricane Madeline is notable for being the second-most intense Pacific hurricane at landfall.

Season summary

The season officially started May 15, 1976 in the eastern Pacific, and June 1, 1976 in the central Pacific, and lasted until November 30, 1976. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. In practice, the season lasted from the formation of the first storm on June 2 to the dissipation of the last on October 30.

This season had a slightly below average number of tropical storms, with fourteen. The number of hurricanes was average, with eight. The season had an above-average number of major hurricanes, with five reaching Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Four of tropical depressions dissipated before they could reach tropical storm strength. There were five landfalls, including three by consecutive storms.

In the Central Pacific, one tropical cyclone, a hurricane formed. Two storms entered the region from the east. These totals are close to average.


Tropical Cyclone One

Tropical Depression One formed June 2 at a location far out to sea. After moving west, it dissipated the day after it formed.

Hurricane Annette

On June 3, Tropical Cyclone Two formed from an area of disturbed weather. Three days later, it became a tropical storm and was given the name Annette. It intensified rapidly, reaching Category 4 strength three days later, and its pressure plunged to 925 millibars. Its west-northwest path was well away from any land. Annette dissipated on June 14, without ever affecting land.

Hurricane Bonny

A tropical depression formed on June 26. It intensified into a weak hurricane the next day and headed westward. It then began to weaken. Bonny dissipated June 29, having never threatened land.

Tropical Cyclone Four

Tropical Depression Four formed on June 28 from a large area of thunderstorms. Having moved north for its short life, it made landfall near Salina Cruz on June 30 and dissipated shortly after that. Impact was minimal.

Tropical Storm Celeste

After a calm of two weeks, Tropical Cyclone Five formed on July 14. The next day, it reached tropical storm strength. Celeste took a westward track and had no effect on any land area. The storm dropped to a depression on July 17 and dissipated two days later.

Hurricane Diana

On July 16, the sixth depression of the season formed. It reached tropical storm strength later that day. The storm continued intensifying, briefly reaching Category 2 strength before weakening as it headed out to sea. Diana dissipated on July 23 not long after entering the Central Pacific Hurricane Center's area of responsibility. Diana's remnants lost their identity shortly after that. Diana did not threaten land.

Tropical Storm Estelle

Part of a large disturbance developed two centers of circulation. One center organized into Tropical Cyclone Seven on July 27. It quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Estelle. Due to its proximity to Tropical Storm Fernanda as well as cooler waters, Estelle dissipated on July 29. Its remnants were promptly absorbed by the other system.

Tropical Storm Fernanda

An active second half of July continued when, on July 28, the other part of the disturbance became Tropical Cyclone Eight. Soon, the depression was upgraded to Tropical Storm Fernanda. After absorbing the remnants of Tropical Storm Estelle, Fernanda began to weaken. It was only a depression when it entered the CPHC's area of responsibility on July 30. The depression was tracked to a point south of the Hawaiian Islands, and finally dissipated on August 2.

Tropical Storm Gwen

On August 5, a tropical depression formed. Within a day, it was upgraded to tropical storm status and named Gwen. Gwen tracked westward over an area of cooler waters, decelerated. The Eastern Pacific Hurricane Center downgraded Gwen to a depression, as it became nearly stationary on August 11.

Hurricane Hyacinth then approached within 500 miles. Interaction between the systems pulled the cyclone to the north. It re-intensified to a tropical storm on August 12. It then slowly weakened as Hyacinth fell apart and was absorbed by Gwen.. The combined tropical depression headed west and entered the central Pacific. It was tracked to a point north of Kauai, where it dissipated on August 17. The only effect Gwen had on any land was to disrupt the trade winds enough to cause rainfall on Kauai.

Hurricane Hyacinth

Tropical Cyclone Ten formed on August 6 from an area of disturbed weather. Twelve hours later, it became a tropical storm and was named Hyacinth. Three days later it became a hurricane. Hyacinth rapidly intensified, reaching Category 3 intensity on August 10. It moved over cooler waters and began weakening. After briefly interacting with Tropical Storm Gwen, Hyacinth weakened to a depression and merged with Tropical Depression Gwen on August 14.

Tropical Cyclone Eleven

Tropical Depression Eleven formed on August 8. It dissipated the next day after stalling out over the open ocean.

Tropical Cyclone Twelve

Tropical Depression Twelve formed on August 16. After drifting for two days in the open ocean, it moved over cooler waters. It was reduced to a swirl of clouds on August 19.

Hurricane Iva

The day after forming on the August 24, a tropical depression reached tropical storm intensity. Iva headed west-northwest and intensified to Category 4 on August 29. Iva then weakened and became extratropical on September 2. Except for Socorro Island, Iva never threatened land.

Tropical Storm Joanna

Tropical Cyclone Fourteen formed from an area of disturbed weather on August 28. After almost becoming a tropical storm, its circulation collapsed on August 30. Convection and thunderstorms regenerated on August 30. A circulation redeveloped the next day. The depression finally reached tropical storm strength and was named Joanna. An area of clouds degraded Joanna and caused it to dissipate on September 7, having never threatened land.

Hurricane Kathleen

Kathleen was a destructive and costly storm. On September 10 and September 11, it caused millions of dollars in damage and at least four deaths due to widespread flooding in California and Arizona.

Hurricane Kate

The only hurricane to form in the central Pacific arose from a disturbance that drifted in from the east. Tropical Depression Twenty-two formed on September 22. The depression became Tropical Storm Kate the next day. Kate headed almost due northwest. Early on September 24, the storm became a hurricane. This prompted a hurricane watch being issued for the Big Island on September 28. The watch continued until Kate was downgraded to a storm on September 29. It passed 200 miles northwest of the island and was destroyed by wind shear on October 2.

There was only minor damage reported to the northern and eastern shores of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii due to heavy surf. A ship called the Hawaiian Princess was caught by gales caused by Kate but escaped.

Hurricane Liza

Liza is the third deadliest Eastern Pacific storm of all time, killing 600 people from a dam burst on the Baja Peninsula. Only an unnamed Category 5 hurricane that slammed ashore in 1959, and a tropical depression that later became Hurricane Paul, killed more.

Hurricane Madeline

The parade of landfalls continued with Hurricane Madeline. A tropical gale developed into a circulation on September 29 and was named Madeline. The system lost strength almost immediately thereafter. It weakened to a depression and then degenerated into a disturbance.

Five days later, on October 3, the disturbance reformed into a depression and a tropical storm the next day. It reached hurricane strength on October 6 and started recurving to the north. Moving over warm water, Madeline rapidly intensified to a peak central pressure of 941 mbar with winds of 145 miles per hour, the highest of the season. Madeline made landfall in near Zihuatanejo on October 8 and quickly weakened over Mexico.

Damage was "extensive." In Chilpancingo, Guerrero, two people drowned. There, two hundred houses were swept away by floodwaters. Throughout the impacted area, 3000 people were rendered homeless. Madeline is the second most intense of Pacific hurricane at landfall; only the unnamed 1959 Mexico Hurricane was more intense.

Tropical Storm Naomi

After almost two weeks of quiet, a tropical depression formed on October 25. It quickly strengthened into a tropical storm. Naomi took an unusual northeasterly track. Naomi made landfall on October 29, and quickly dissipated the next day. Reported damage was minimal.

1976 storm names

The following names were used for named storms that formed in the eastern Pacific in 1976. It is the same list used in the 1972 season. No names were retired from this list. However, as modern naming began in 1978, this is the last time this list was used. Names that were not assigned are marked in gray.

  • Annette
  • Bonny
  • Celeste
  • Diana
  • Estelle
  • Fernanda
  • Gwen
  • Hyacinth
  • Iva
  • Joanna
  • Kathleen
  • Liza
  • Madeline
  • Naomi
  • The central Pacific used names and numbers from the western Pacific typhoon name list. Kate was the only name required.

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