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ATLANTIC HURRICANE 1999 SEASON SUMMARY

May 10, 2000 — Overview

There were 12 named tropical cyclones during the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season, including eight hurricanes and four tropical storms. This is above the 1950-1999 averages of 9.9 named tropical cyclones, 5.9 hurricanes, and 4.0 tropical storms.

Five of this season's hurricanes were major hurricanes (wind speeds of 111 mph or more) and all five became category 4 hurricanes (131 mph or more) on the Saffir/Simpson Scale—the most category 4 hurricanes in a single season since records begin in 1886. The past five-year totals of 41 hurricanes and 20 major hurricanes are also records.

Hurricanes Bret, Floyd, and Irene made landfall on the U.S. mainland as category 3, 2, and 1 hurricanes, respectively, on the Saffir/Simpson hurricane scale. Dennis produced near- hurricane conditions and Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall in the United States. The U.S. Virgin Islands experienced a hurricane (Lenny). The inland flooding from Floyd was a disaster of immense proportions in the eastern United States, particularly in North Carolina. The 56 U.S. direct deaths from Floyd's flooding is the largest death total since Hurricane Agnes in 1972 (122 deaths).

The Bahamas experienced tropical storm conditions from Dennis and hurricane conditions from Floyd. Gert briefly produced hurricane conditions at Bermuda and also affected Newfoundland. Cuba experienced tropical storm conditions from Irene. Tropical Storm Katrina made landfall in Nicaragua. And late-season Lenny produced up to category 2 hurricane conditions over portions of the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.

Individual Storms
Tropical Storm Arlene
originated from the remnants of a front on June 11th, about 550 statute miles southeast of Bermuda. Wind speeds reached their maximum of 60 mph on the 13th as the storm moved slowly westward. Arlene passed slightly more than 100 miles east of Bermuda on the 17th while moving slowly northward and while weakening. There was no significant impact to Bermuda.

Hurricane Bret formed in the Bay of Campeche on the 19th of August. It moved slowly northward across the western Gulf of Mexico and strengthened to a 140-mph hurricane on the 22nd, while approaching the south Texas coast some 70 miles east of Brownsville. Bret made landfall at 0000 UTC on the 23rd on Padre Island with 115-mph winds. Bret's areal extent of strong winds was small and Bret affected a sparsely-populated region. There were no deaths reported and the total damage estimate is 60 million dollars. Bret was the first hurricane to affect south Texas since 1980 (Hurricane Allen) and it was the strongest since 1970 (Hurricane Celia).

Hurricane Cindy remained in the eastern and central north Atlantic Ocean without affecting land. Cindy formed near the Cape Verde Islands on August 19th. Moving west to west-northwestward, it became a hurricane on the 20th and reached its maximum intensity of 140 mph on the 22nd. Cindy gradually recurved across the central north Atlantic over the next several days. It merged with an extratropical low on the 31st about 1000 miles west of the Azores.

Hurricane Dennis formed over the western north Atlantic on August 24th, about 225 miles east of Turks Island and the southeastern Bahamas. Strengthening, Dennis produced hurricane conditions at Abaco Island on the 28th. Winds increased to a peak of 105 mph later on the 28th and maintained this intensity until early on the 30th, when the hurricane was centered about 115 miles off the southeast U.S. coast and moving parallel to the coast. Slowly weakening, the center of the hurricane moved to within about 70 miles south of the North Carolina coast later on the 30th. Dennis weakened to a tropical storm on 1 September while drifting slowly and erratically at a location just over 100 miles east of Cape Hatteras. Dennis moved southward and then northwestward and made landfall on the coast of North Carolina on the 4th with winds to 70 mph. Moving inland, the remnants of Dennis were absorbed by an extratropical low over New York state on 8 September.

Dennis' first pass near the coast on the 30th produced tropical storm conditions over coastal North Carolina. Winds to hurricane force are believed to have occurred on the Outer Banks at this time. Rainfall totals ranged as high as 19 inches over portions of eastern North Carolina. Four deaths were reported in Florida related to high surf conditions. A tornado in Hampton, Virginia was responsible for several serious injuries. The damage estimate for North Carolina and Virginia is 157 million dollars.

Tropical Storm Emily formed about 400 miles east of the Windward Islands early on August 24th. Emily moved northwest and then northward for a few days, its center remaining at least 250 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. With winds reaching 50 mph late on the 24th, further development was limited by the larger and stronger circulation of Hurricane Cindy. Emily was absorbed by Cindy on the 28th.

Hurricane Floyd first became a tropical depression on September 7th, over the tropical Atlantic Ocean about 1000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. The strengthening tropical cyclone moved toward a general west-northwest direction for several days and reached its peak intensity of 155 mph (top end of a category 4) on the 13th, while centered about 300 miles east of the central Bahamas. Fluctuating in intensity, Floyd's eye moved directly over Eleuthera and Abaco of the Bahamas on the 14th with at least category 3 wind speeds.

As Floyd moved through the northwest Bahama islands, it began to recurve. It moved toward the north-northwest and then northward on the 15th, closely paralleling the U.S. southeast coast. Gradually weakening, Floyd's center passed just over 100 miles east of the Florida coast. The hurricane made landfall on the 16th near Cape Fear, North Carolina, with winds to 105 mph (category 2). Crossing eastern North Carolina and Virginia, Floyd weakened to a tropical storm. It's center moved offshore along the coasts of the Delmarva Peninsula and New Jersey, and then, on the 17th, it moved over Long Island and New England where it became extratropical.

Rainfall totals were large, and combined with saturated ground water levels from recent previous rain events, the result was an inland flood disaster. There were 56 deaths in the United States (and one in the Bahamas), most due to drowning from fresh water floods. This makes Floyd is the deadliest U.S. hurricane since Agnes of 1972. Rainfall totals were as high as 15 to 20 inches over portions of eastern North Carolina and Virginia, 12 to 14 inches over portions of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, 4-7 inches over eastern Pennsylvania and southeastern New York, and up to 11 inches over portions of New England. Maximum storm surge water levels reached as high as 9 to 10 feet above normal tide levels along the North Carolina coast. Total damage estimates range from three to more than six billion dollars.

Floyd's track was close in proximity to all of the U.S. east coast and required hurricane warnings from south Florida to Massachusetts, excluding the New York City metropolitan area which was under a tropical storm warning. The last hurricane to require warnings for as large an area was Hurricane Donna in 1960.

Hurricane Gert formed on September 11th as a tropical depression in the far eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean. Moving west-northwestward, It became a tropical storm on the 12th and a hurricane on the 13th. It strengthened to a 150-mph hurricane on the 16th, while located about 575 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Beginning a gradual weakening process, Gert recurved northward over the next several days, moving across the central North Atlantic. The center passed about 130 miles east of Bermuda on the 21st, and Bermuda briefly reported 75-80 mph sustained wind speeds. Gert moved to near southeastern Newfoundland on the 23rd, where gale-force winds were experienced, and then became extratropical.

Tropical Storm Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico from a tropical wave, It became a tropical depression on September 19th over the central Gulf and moved toward the east-northeast. With unfavorable winds aloft, Harvey became a 60-mph tropical storm while centered about 250 miles west-southwest of Tampa, Florida. Taking an abrupt turn toward the southeast, Harvey weakened a little before moving inland on the southwest Florida coast on the 21st and producing tropical storm winds over portions of the Florida keys and extreme south Florida. Harvey was absorbed by a frontal system on the 22nd just east of southeast Florida.

Hurricane Irene formed from a broad area of low pressure in the southwest Caribbean on October 13th. It became a tropical storm on the same day and moved northward across western Cuba on the 14th with 70-mph winds. It became a 75-mph hurricane on the 15th and moved northeastward across south Florida. Irene dumped 10 to 20 inches of rain along its path, resulting in considerable fresh-water flooding. The U.S. damage estimate is 800 million dollars, all in Florida, and there were eight indirect deaths from electrocution and drowning.

Irene moved from Florida to over Atlantic waters early on the 16th. It moved northward toward the Carolinas, but turned northeastward on the 17th. It brushed the Outer Banks of North Carolina with tropical storm force winds on the 18th while intensifying rapidly to 110 mph. It also dropped some five to ten inches of rain across portions of South and North Carolina. Continuing northeastward, Irene was absorbed by an extratropical low near Newfoundland and the combined system became an intense extratropical storm over the far North Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Jose began as a tropical depression about 700 miles east of the Windward Islands on October 17th. Moving mostly northwestward, it soon became a tropical storm and then became a hurricane on the 19th while located 150 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Jose moved over the northern Leeward Islands early on the 21st, with the center passing over Antigua and St. Maartin. Jose's maximum winds reached 100 mph and sustained winds of 80 mph and 70 mph, respectively, were reported from Antigua and St. Maartin.

Jose weakened to a tropical storm and moved across the British Virgin Islands later on the 21st. The storm turned north-northeastward and moved across the central North Atlantic for the next several days. It again strengthened to a hurricane on the 24th, while passing some 300 miles east of Bermuda. Jose lost tropical characteristics on the 25th while located several hundred miles south of Newfoundland.

Tropical Storm Katrina was a short-lived tropical storm . It formed in the southwest Caribbean within a broad area of low pressure, becoming a tropical depression on October 28th. It briefly became a 45-mph tropical storm late on the 29th as it moved slowly northwestward, crossing the coast of Nicaragua near Puerto Cabezas. For the remainder of is four days of existence, Katrina was a tropical depression moving on a generally northwestward track across Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Yucatan Peninsula. The depression dissipated on November 1st, as it was absorbed by a cold front just north of the Yucatan Peninsula. Although there have been no reports of damage or death, it is estimated that 10 to 15 inches of rain may have fallen over portions of Central America.

Hurricane Lenny formed over the northwestern Caribbean Sea within a broad trough of low pressure. After several days of slow organizing and drifting, the originating area of disturbed weather became a tropical depression on the November 13th, not far from the Cayman Islands. Moving slowly south and then southeastward, Lenny became a tropical storm on the 14th, centered about 175 miles southeast of Jamaica. Lenny moved mostly eastward across the central Caribbean on the 15th and 16th and intensified, becoming a hurricane on the 15th some 140 miles south of Jamaica. Then turning northeastward, Lenny reached its peak intensity of 150 mph on the 17th while passing just south of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Lenny was gradually weakening when its center passed very slowly over St. Maarten on the 17th through the 19th. Moving southeastward and away from the Leeward Islands, Lenny weakened to a tropical storm on the 20th. The motion turned again toward the northeast and then eastward, and Lenny dissipated on the 23rd about 625 miles east of the Leeward Islands.

The U.S. Virgin Islands experienced a category 1 hurricane and the British Virgin Islands had tropical storm conditions. Category 1 hurricane conditions were measured at St. Maarten and it is likely that category 2 wind speeds (96-110 mph) occurred at this location. Other islands affected by Lenny include Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Monserrat. For many locations, it was very heavy rainfall over several days that was the primary impact of Lenny.