1988 Atlantic hurricane season

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1988 Atlantic hurricane season
Season summary map
Season summary map
First storm formed: Aug. 5, 1988
Last storm dissipated: Nov. 24, 1988
Strongest storm: Gilbert - 888 mbar (26.22 inHg), 160 knots (185 mph)
Total storms: 12
Major storms (Cat. 3+) 3
Total damages: $7.9 billion
(1988 USD)
Total fatalites: 550
Atlantic hurricane seasons
1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990

The 1988 Atlantic hurricane season was an ongoing event in the annual cycle of tropical cyclone formation. It officially started June 1, 1988, and lasted until November 30, 1988.

The most notable storms of the season were Hurricane Gilbert and Hurricane Joan.



Tropical Storm Alberto

A Tropical Depression formed off South Carolina on August 5 and followed the East Coast of the United States northwards. It became a tropical storm on August 7 and crossed the Canadian Maritimes before becoming extratropical near Newfoundland. There was no significant damage.

Tropical Storm Beryl

A tropical depression developed over Louisiana on August 7. It drifted south and strengthened to Tropical Storm Beryl before retuning over New Orleans and heading inland. One death at sea was attributed to Beryl, and damage to coastal areas was estimated at $4 million.

Tropical Storm Chris

A Tropical Depression formed in mid-Atlantic on August 21, passed though the Lesser Antilles, across Hispaniola and through the Bahamas before becoming Tropical Storm Chris east of Florida on August 28. It made landfall near Savannah, Georgia and moved up the Eastern Seaboard as a tropical depression, merging with a frontal system on August 30. 3 deaths occurred in Puerto Rico and one in South Carolina, damage was minor.

Hurricane Debby

A detached portion of the same tropical wave that spawned Chris formed a second tropical depression west of Yucatan on August 31. Moving westward it became a tropical storm, and was measured at hurricane strength just before landfall at Tuxpan, Mexico. The centre made the transition to a Pacific cyclone as Tropical Depression Seventeen-E. It is believed to have been a hurricane for about 6 hours.

10 deaths were reported from Mexico, mostly caused by mudslides.

Tropical Storm Ernesto

Ernesto formed east of Bermuda on September 3 and moved rapidly east across the Atlantic. It was absorbed by an extratropical low north of the Azores. There were no reports of damage or casualties.

Hurricane Florence

Florence formed in the western Gulf of Mexico on September 7, and after a couple of days of rather aimless motion accelerated rapidly northwards. It became a hurricane about 12 hours before crossing the Mississippi Delta and passing over New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. The dwindling storm was tracked as far as north-east Texas.

Damage in Louisiana was estimated at $2.5 million, with a further $300,000 due to flooding in the Florida Panhandle. One storm-related death was reported.

Unnamed storm (TD 13)

Tropical Depression 13 formed north-east of Cape Verde on September 7. It headed north-northwest and faded out west of the Western Sahara region on September 10. Ship and satellite observations indicate it maintained storm strength for about 48 hours, but in view of its extreme eastern track it was not assigned a name at the time. Moderate to heavy rain was reported from the west coast of Africa, no damage was reported.

Hurricane Gilbert

Gilbert near peak intensity
Gilbert near peak intensity

Main article Hurricane Gilbert

Hurricane Gilbert was the most intense Category 5 hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic until it was surpassed by Hurricane Wilma. The storm caused widespread serious damage across the Caribbean and into Central America. Gilbert was the first hurricane to make landfall in Jamaica since 1951, and is one of the few storms to have made landfall as Category 5 (in Mexico). It killed 318 people, mostly in Mexico.

Hurricane Helene

Helene formed west of Cape Verde on September 17 and swung to the north in the central Atlantic. It strengthened to Category 4 by September 23 before weakening over cooler water, eventually becoming extratropical on September 30. It never approached land and no damage or casualties were reported.

Tropical Storm Isaac

Tropical Storm Isaac was a short lived system, being named on September 30 east of the Lesser Antilles but maintaining storm strength for only 18 hours. The circulation faded away soon after. There were no reports of damage or casualties.

Hurricane Joan

Main article: Hurricane Joan

Hurricane Joan killed 148 people in Nicaragua (where it made landfall as a Category 4), and another 68 people in other affected nations. It also had a very unusual track.

Tropical Storm Keith

The last storm of the season became a Tropical Depression south of Haiti on November 17 and reached storm strength on November 20. It curved round to clip the tip of the Yucatan peninsula, then crossed Florida from Sarasota to Melbourne on November 23. It became an intense extratropical system over the Atlantic, with sustained winds reaching minimal hurricane force.

Damage from storm surge in Florida was put at $3 million. Flooding in western Cuba caused considerable damage to crops. No fatalities were recorded.

1988 storm names

The following names were used for named storms that formed in the north Atlantic in 1988. The names not retired from this list were used again in the 1994 season. This is the same list used for the 1982 season. Storms were named Florence, Gilbert, Isaac, Joan, and Keith for the first time in 1988. Names that were not assigned are marked in gray.

  • Alberto
  • Beryl
  • Chris
  • Debby
  • Ernesto
  • Florence
  • Gilbert
  • Helene
  • Isaac
  • Joan
  • Keith
  • Leslie (unused)
  • Michael (unused)
  • Nadine (unused)
  • Oscar (unused)
  • Patty (unused)
  • Rafael (unused)
  • Sandy (unused)
  • Tony (unused)
  • Valerie (unused)
  • William (unused)


The World Meteorological Organization retired two names in the spring of 1989: Gilbert and Joan. They were replaced in the 1994 season by Gordon and Joyce.

See also

External link

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