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HIGHLIGHTS OF HURRICANE SEASON 2000

November 30, 2000 — As NOAA forecasters predicted, storm activity during Hurricane Season 2000 was above average, despite a slow start. Except for two tropical depressions, June and July were quiet. In August, Hurricanes Alberto and Debby and two tropical storms, Beryl and Chris gave the season a jump start.

Alberto was the longest-lived tropical cyclone on record to form during August. Alberto also is the third-longest lived hurricane on record in the Atlantic. It developed in the eastern tropical Atlantic on Aug. 3, and reached peak intensity of 125 mph on the 12th. During this period it began a lazy week-long clockwise loop between Bermuda and the Azores. Alberto became extra-tropical on Aug. 23, nearly 800 miles south southwest of Iceland.

Hurricane Debby formed on Aug. 18 about 1,100 miles east of the Windward Islands. Long-range computer models suggested Debby would track toward the northeast Caribbean Sea and potentially threaten Florida. The storm became a hurricane on Aug. 21, with peak winds of 85 mph, and centered about 500 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Debby moved westward toward the northeast Caribbean Sea, but turned back toward the west-northwest clipping the northern Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands early on Aug. 22.

The eye of the hurricane then passed 30 to 40 miles north of the northern coast of Puerto Rico. While Debby moved toward the west and approached the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, vertical wind shear increased and the system weakened to a tropical storm.

In September, tropical cyclone activity was considerably above average for the month. There were seven tropical storms (normal activity is three to four.) The last time seven tropical storms formed in the Atlantic in September was 1988. Five storms—Florence, Gordon, Isaac, Joyce and Keith—reached hurricane status. Hurricanes Isaac and Keith were major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph.

Tropical Storm Ernesto was short-lived east of the Lesser Antilles. Hurricane Florence developed 380 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on Sept. 11. Florence threatened Bermuda and brought tropical-storm force winds to the island. Tropical Storm Gordon was the first U.S. land-falling storm of the season. Gordon developed near the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on Sept. 14 and drifted northward into the Gulf of Mexico becoming a minimal hurricane on the 17th with peak winds of 75 mph. Vertical wind shear weakened Gordon to a tropical storm before it made landfall near Cedar Key, Fla., with maximum winds of 65 mph.

Helene formed south of Cuba on Sep. 19, made landfall near Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., as a minimal tropical storm and dumped 8-10 inches of rain across the Florida Panhandle and Georgia. Hurricane Joyce was a Category 1 system east of the Windward Islands, but weakened from a Tropical Storm to a Depression when it passed through the islands.

Tropical cyclone activity for October was above average (normal activity is one hurricane and one tropical storm during the month). Hurricane Keith reached its peak intensity on October 1. Hurricane Michael and Tropical Storms Leslie and Nadine also formed in October. Keith, which developed over the northwestern Caribbean in late September, reached a peak intensity of 140 mph—a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale—and was still a major hurricane when its eye wall began moving slowly over northeastern Belize, on October 3. Keith's slow track across the Caribbean caused torrential rainfall over Belize and other portions of Central America, killing 19.

Tropical Storm Leslie was a short-lived system that developed from a sub-tropical depression off the east coast of Florida. Although Leslie was not directly responsible for any damage, its precursor disturbance combined (October 2-3) with a stalled frontal boundary to produce very heavy rainfall and flood damage estimated at $700 million in southeast Florida. Three deaths were indirectly attributed to the flooding. The second October hurricane was Michael, which quickly strengthened to100 mph on Oct. 17, while racing toward the Canadian Maritime Provinces. It made landfall near Harbour Brenton, Newfoundland, and damaged only trees and power lines. Nadine strengthened to a tropical storm and moved east of Bermuda on the 20th.

Posted Nov. 30, 2000