1998 Atlantic hurricane season

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1998 Atlantic hurricane season
Season summary map
Season summary map
First storm formed: Jul. 27, 1998
Last storm dissipated: Dec. 1, 1998
Strongest storm: Pressure: Mitch - 905 -mbar (26.72 inHg), 155 knots (180 mph)
Total storms: 14
Major storms (Cat. 3+) 3
Total damages: $14.576 billion
(2005 USD)
Total fatalites: 18,907
Atlantic hurricane seasons
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000

The 1998 Atlantic hurricane season was an ongoing event in the annual cycle of tropical cyclone formation. It officially started June 1, 1998, and lasted until November 30, 1998 (although really lasted an extra day as Nicole survived past the end of the season).

One of the notable storms of the 1998 season was Hurricane Georges, which killed an estimated 602 people, mostly in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and at the time was the 19th deadliest 20th century Atlantic hurricane. Although Georges was a record-setting storm, it was a distant second to Hurricane Mitch. Mitch was responsible for up to 18,000 deaths, mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua. Mitch is one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes on record, second only to the Great Hurricane of 1780.



Tropical Storm Alex

Tropical storm Alex was first identified as a tropical depression on July 27, while 300 n mi south-southwest of Cape Verde. On the 29th, it was upgraded to tropical storm status. Alex headed west, but never strengthened significantly. Tropical Storm Alex dissipated on August 2 without affecting land.

Hurricane Bonnie

Bonnie formed out of a poorly organized tropical depression east of the Leeward Islands on August 20. The new tropical storm moved west-northwest, passing north of the Antilles, and reached hurricane strength north of Puerto Rico on the 22nd. At this point, Hurricane Bonnie turned to the northwest, away from the Bahamas and Florida, and toward the Carolinas.

As Bonnie headed northwest, it strengthened into a 115 mi/h Category 3 hurricane. It would stay at this strength from the 23rd until just before landfall on August 27 near Wilmington, North Carolina. As it moved over land, it continued an eastward turn started just before landfall, and returned to the Atlantic as a tropical storm. Bonnie restrengthened to a minimal hurricane, but weakened as it headed rapidly to the northeast. Bonnie became extratropical on the 30th while about 240 n mi south-southeast of Newfoundland.

Bonnie produced a maximum of 14.61" of rain at a cooperative observing station located seven miles north of Wilmington, North Carolinas. Its storm total rainfall map is located at [1]. Hurricane Bonnie is blamed for three deaths, and $720 million in damage, most of it in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Tropical Storm Charley

Charley formed in the western Gulf of Mexico on August 21. It headed west, and was at near hurricane strength when it made landfall near Port Aransas, Texas on the 22nd. Tropical Storm Charley continued inland before dissipating near Del Rio.

Charley was responsible for serious inland flooding in and around Val Verde County, Texas. Thirteen people died in Texas, and seven deaths were reported across the border in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila. Property damage was estimated at $50 million. Del Rio recorded 17 inches of rain in 24 hours from the storm, a record for the city.

Hurricane Danielle

Danielle was named on August 24 while roughly 600 n mi west-southwest of Cape Verde. The storm headed west-northwest and strengthened into a hurricane. Hurricane Danielle followed a nearly straight track for almost six days with its strength oscillating between a strong Category 2 storm and a weak Category 1. As it began to approach the United States on August 31, Danielle turned, first to the north, then the northeast.

Bonnie had finally moved off to the northeast after making landfall on the Carolina coast on August 28. Now all eyes were on Danielle, which by now was a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with sustained winds of 100 mph.

Danielle continued quickly northwest. A trough in the jet stream on the east coast prevented Danielle from making landfall in Bermuda. As Danielle headed over colder water, it began losing its tropical characteristics. It was declared extratropical while south of Cape Race, Newfoundland on September 4. Danielle still had hurricane force winds when it became extratropical, and remained organized as it continued to the east. The extratropical storm was tracked until it merged with another system north of Ireland on September 8.

No deaths were reported from Danielle as a tropical system. Danielle dissipated and became extratropical on September 3. The British Isles took quite a lashing from the remnants of Danielle on September 6. Some people had to be rescued from treacherous sea conditions.

Danielle was responsible for coastal damage in western Great Britain, causing beach evacuations in Cornwall.

Hurricane Earl

Earl became a named system in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on August 31. It headed generally northeast, and although it retained a subtropical-type structure with a comma head pattern and a large dry slot, it reached hurricane strength on September 2 while 125 n mi south-southeast of New Orleans, Louisiana. It made landfall at Category 1 on the 3rd near Panama City, Florida. After travelling inland, Earl became extratropical over Georgia, and then moved back out to sea and was tracked into the North Atlantic until it was absorbed by the extratropical remnants of Hurricane Danielle on September 8.

Hurricane Earl was responsible for three deaths, and its eight foot storm surge was largely responsible for an estimated $79 million in property damage. Prodigious rainfall fell during its transit of northern Florida, with 16.36" falling five miles northeast of Panama City, Florida. Its rainfall graphic can be found here: [2].

Tropical Storm Frances

Frances formed in the western Gulf of Mexico on September 10. It briefly drifted south, but then turned north and then northwest. It made landfall north of Corpus Christi, Texas on the 11th as a moderately strong tropical storm. It weakened to a tropical depression as it travelled north, and dissipated north of Dallas, Texas.

The storm was relatively large, with tropical storm force winds extending 300 n mi from the center of circulation. A storm surge of up to eight feet was reported along the Texas coastline, and rainfall totals for many areas exceeded ten inches.

Tropical Storm Frances was responsible for one direct death in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana caused by a tornado. Heavy rainfall caused large amounts of flood damage in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, with an estimated total of $500 million in property damage.

Hurricane Georges

Main article: Hurricane Georges

A tropical wave that emerged from the coast of Africa in mid September organized into a tropical depression on September 15 while 300 n mi south-southwest of Cape Verde. It continued to develop, and reached tropical storm force on the 16th, while centered 620 n mi west-southwest of Cape Verde. Georges took a typical track for a Cape Verde-type hurricane, with a nearly straight west-northwest track.

Georges continued to strengthen, and nearly reached Category 5 classification on September 20, while 285 n mi east of Guadeloupe. Georges weakened from this point on, but was on a track to travel up all of the Leeward Islands and the Greater Antilles.

On the 21st, Georges began its seven landfalls in the Lesser Antilles, starting with Antigua. After passing through the smaller islands, it made landfall in Puerto Rico. It strengthened slightly as it left the island, but its passage over the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola left it a minimal hurricane. Georges continued on, and travelled up the northern coast of Cuba. By September 25, it made landfall at Key West, Florida at Category 2 strength. As it entered the Gulf of Mexico, Georges began a turn to the north, and made landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi on September 28. Georges meandered over southern Mississippi, then slowly travelled east before dissipating over northern Florida on October 1.

The damage caused by Georges was immense. There were 602 deaths directly associated with Georges, nearly all in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Property damage to the United States and its possessions is estimated at $5.9 billion. Monetary estimates of damage in other areas affected are not available. However, 185,000 were left homeless in the Dominican Republic, another 167,000 in Haiti, and 3,500 homes were destroyed in Cuba.

Hurricane Georges was a very damaging storm, the 19th deadliest of the 20th century. In most other seasons, Georges could easily be declared the worst storm of the season. However, a month later Hurricane Mitch would make Georges look minor by comparison.

Tropical Storm Hermine

Hermine formed as a tropical depression several hundred miles south of Louisiana on September 17. The depression looped around offshore, then headed north. On the 19th, it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Hermine. it made landfall the next day near Cocodrie, Louisiana. There were no reports of damage.

Hurricane Ivan

A tropical wave just off Cape Verde organized into a tropical depression on September 19, and then travelled west-northwest before strengthening into Tropical Storm Ivan. Ivan began heading north and strengthened to a hurricane. It then gradually turned to the east, passing just north of the Azores on the 26th. Hurricane Ivan became extratropical the next day. Ivan caused no reported damage, and there were no land-based reports of tropical storm force winds.

Hurricane Jeanne

Jeanne formed as a tropical depression on September 21 while 140 n mi of Guinea-Bissau. Jeanne formed farther east than any storm on record except for Tropical Storm Christine in 1973. It moved west-northwest and was named Tropical Storm Jeanne later on the 21st. The storm continued strengthening, and became a Category 2 hurricane. On the 25th, Hurricane Jeanne began a slow turn to the right. By September 27, it was heading north, and on October 1, it crossed the Azores heading east as a weakening tropical storm. As it left the Azores, it became extratropical. The extratropical storm brough gale force winds to Portugal on the 4th, and became unidentifiable over Spain later that day. No damage was reported.

Hurricane Karl

Karl formed from a non-tropical low that travelled eastward just to the north of Bermuda on September 23. After a southerly dip, The storm began a dip to the south, and strengthened to hurricane intensity on September 25. It shared the Atlantic basin with Hurricanes Georges, Ivan, and Jeanne, the first time since 1893 that four hurricanes existed in the Atlantic simultaneously.

Hurricane Karl travelled generally northeast, and weakened to a tropical storm as it passed the Azores. On the 28th, it became extratropical and was tracked until it was south of Ireland the next day.

Hurricane Lisa

Lisa formed midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles on October 5. It headed generally north, and on the 9th, began accelerating. That afternoon its forward speed was greater than 50 knots, unusually fast for a tropical system. It briefly reached minimal hurricane strength, but merged with a front over the far northern Atlantic. By the next day it was unidentifiable as a storm. Hurricane Lisa never affected land and no damage was reported at sea.

Hurricane Mitch

Main article: Hurricane Mitch

Hurricane Mitch at peak intensity
Hurricane Mitch at peak intensity

Hurricane Mitch was one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever observed, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph or 290 km/h. Mitch battered Central America from October 22, 1998 to November 5, 1998, killing as many as 18,200 people. It was the deadliest hurricane in over 200 years, and second deadliest ever.

Deaths were mostly from flooding, when the slow-moving hurricane and then tropical storm dropped nearly three feet or 900 mm of rain. Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed.

As a much weaker storm, Mitch later travelled over Yucatán and then across Florida. It continued out into the north Atlantic and was tracked north of Great Britain.

Hurricane Nicole

Nicole was a late season hurricane that formed from a non-tropical system in the eastern Atlantic. It was named on November 24 while well west of the Canary Islands. The storm moved west-southwest for several days, and wind shear caused it to weaken to a tropical depression on the 26th. The system was so weak that storm advisories were discontinued.

However, Nicole unexpectedly restrengthened and was again classified as a tropical storm on November 27. The storm began a slow turn, and by the 30th, Nicole was heading northeast toward the Azores as a minimal hurricane. The storm then turned back to the north and was classified as extratropical on December 1. Hurricane Nicole never directly affected land and no damage was reported in association with it.

1998 storm names

The following names were used for named storms that formed in the north Atlantic in 1998. The names not retired from this list were used again in the 2004 season. This is the same list used for the 1992 season except for Alex, which replaced Andrew. Storms were named Alex, Lisa, Mitch, and Nicole for the first time in 1998. Names that were not assigned are marked in gray.

  • Alex
  • Bonnie
  • Charley
  • Danielle
  • Earl
  • Frances
  • Georges
  • Hermine
  • Ivan
  • Jeanne
  • Karl
  • Lisa
  • Mitch
  • Nicole
  • Otto (unused)
  • Paula (unused)
  • Richard (unused)
  • Shary (unused)
  • Tomas (unused)
  • Virginie (unused)
  • Walter (unused)


The World Meteorological Organization retired two names in the spring of 1999: Georges and Mitch. They were replaced in the 2004 season by Gaston and Matthew.

See also

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