On October 10 the 17th tropical depression of the season organized from a disturbance in the ITCZ. For the next two days the system traveled northwest while it strengthened into Tropical Storm Joan. After passing through the southern Lesser Antilles, Joan traveled westward along the South American coast as a minimal tropical storm. It crossed the Guajira Peninsula on October 17 and quickly attained hurricane strength just 30 mi (48 km) from the coast. Hurricane Joan strengthened into a major hurricane on October 19 while drifting westward. The hurricane executed a tight cyclonic loop in which it weakened greatly but rapidly strengthened upon resuming its westward track. Joan reached its peak intensity just before making landfall near Bluefields, Nicaragua, on October 22 as a Category 4 hurricane. Joan at the time was the southernmost Category 4 hurricane ever recorded, but this record has since been broken by Hurricane Ivan. Joan remained well organized as it crossed Nicaragua and emerged in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin as Tropical Storm Miriam. Miriam gradually weakened until dissipating on November 2.
Hurricane Joan killed 148 people in Nicaragua and 68 others in affected nations. The hurricane damage in Nicaragua amounted to half of the $2 billion (1988 USD; $3.71 billion 2011 USD) total. Joan also brought heavy rainfall and mudslides to countries along the extreme southern Caribbean. Its track along the northern coast of South America was very rare; Joan was one of only a few Atlantic tropical cyclones to move in this way. Joan was also the first tropical cyclone to cross from the Atlantic basin since Hurricane Greta of 1978.
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