Northeast Weather Blog

Memorable Hurricanes

By: sullivanweather, 8:04 AM GMT on June 12, 2007

The following is a list of my most memorable hurricanes. Feel free to share what hurricane/s and/or tropical storm/s sticks out in your memory and why. If you'd like to include personal favourite images, please do so.


This is the first hurricane entered into my memory bank. Having experienced this one is what really makes it memorable for me. I don't remember a whole lot about the storm, but I do remember enough. I was only 4 years old, but a few detailed memories stuck.

I had day-care the day the hurricane hit. On the way there I remember seeing many trees blown down along the Sprain Brook Parkway. One tree in particular was this Oak tree on Gun Hill Road that my mother adored. It gave wonderful autumn displays from her stories. The crab apple trees in front of my apartment in the Bronx was striped of it's braches and were cut down. I certainly remember that day, I loved those crab apples.



By now I was 7 and gaining interest in weather. Our family had moved from New York City to Middletown, NY the prior winter. We now had cable television and with it the weather channel. This really helped spawn even more interest.

In essence the 1988 hurricane season was the first I got to monitor and we got Gilbert. Gilbert! The monster! By 6th grade the satellite photo of Hurricane Gilbert was in every science text-book!

My mother and father had left for Florida on a 2 week vacation the day after Labor Day that year. I remember being very nervous that the storm might turn north and head for Florida. The locals down there told my parents that would happen when they had called me.

This satellite shot of Gilbert is my personal favourite. The storm is at its pinnacle. From the pinhole eye, to the perfectly developed core, the overall symmetry, the spiral banding, the large outflow canopy. A 'mature storm' in every sense of the term.



A classic long-lived Cape Verde storm. Formed almost immediately after emerging from the African coast. One of the things I remember about this storm was the almost absolute certainty forecasters had that this storm would eventually hit the United States almost a week before landfall in South Carolina.

This storm was the true 'wake-up call'. The spread of information was becoming much faster. Cable was now in most American households. The weather channel and CNN gave up to the minute coverage as the storm approached. The wrath Hugo had put on Puerto Rico made many folks stand up and take notice to the potential power of this storm. It lived up to all the expectations.

What really stuck in my mind as I watched this storm approach the Southeastern coast were the outflow channels to the northwest and southeast of the hurricane. This satellite photo shows Hugo's very distinctive outflow pattern.



The 'other' hurricane. I say 'other' because of the two hurricanes that came close to my neck of the woods, Bob wasn't nearly as bad as Gloria. I'm sure this had to do with my location. When Gloria hit I was living in The Bronx. When Bob hit I was living in Middletown, about 65 miles northwest of NYC. So Bob was mainly a heavy rain producer. Not much wind, maybe some 30 to 40 mph gusts. In all actuality, Tropical Storm Floyd was worse, but we'll get to that later.

This image captures Bob as it began to move up the coast towards New England.



This was the storm that stirred the passion. The storm that became engraved into the memory bank. From formation, to its near demise, to re-intensification, it's landfalls, and aftermath.

It was Christmas 1991 and someone in my family had took notice to my growing weather passion. That year I had received a hurricane tracking chart from my Aunt in Leesburg, Florida. As hurricane season approached I tacked the chart to my bulletin board and impatiently waited for the first tropical cyclone of the 1992 hurricane season. Nothing. Nothing for 76 days. Then on the 77th day of the 1992 hurricane season a wave that had emerged off Africa a few days earlier finally formed the first storm of the season.

The tropical storm struggled along. A duel had developed between Andrew and an upper low to it's northwest. Andrew was near death. The upper low was ready to deliver the knock-out punch, but for some reason, it split and weakened. The a strong extension of the Bermuda developed to the storms north and Andrew accelerated westward. Convection blew up near the center of Andrew, wrapped around the storm and expanded. An amazing transformation took place. In just 36 hours Andrew was starting to look like another Hugo. Or at least that what everyone thought would turn out being the worst case scenario. What transpired was much worse.

As the hurricane bore down on Southern Florida the weather channels budding star, Jim Cantore, gave great updates on the approaching storm. I remember him explaining how the storm was on a 25.4║N latitude for many hours straight, making Miami its target.

On the night of landfall I was at my grandmothers house, sick from bad well water. I stood up during that whole night, with unbelievable cramps, watching the weather channel. Back in those days the weather channel used to shut down during the overnights, showing the 2 a.m. hour at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. with only satellite loops and west coast weather with the earthquake maps. Not this night. It may have even been the first night the weather channel had 24 hour live coverage. I remember them showing the radar presentation of the storm until it destroyed the radar.

When the sun rose the next morning Andrew was moving into the Gulf and things seemed surprisingly good. There was damage, but not a lot were the initial reports. Then finally some helicopters made it down to the Homestead area. Utter devastation. Whole neighborhoods of homes turned into what looked like lumber heaps from the air. The scary reality is that's exactly what they were, lumber heaps. This was the type of damage that was seen from violent tornadoes, not hurricanes.

It was surprising to me that this storm wasn't initially rated a category 5 at landfall. It was some several years later that Andrew was re-evaluated as a category 5 at landfall in Florida. I remember somewhat the Louisianna landfall. My mother was starting to make me go to sleep earlier now that school was starting soon to 'adjust'. So I wasn't awake when it made its landfall in Louisianna. But I do remember waking up the next day watching Jim Cantore in Baton Rouge. By this time Andrew was a rapidly weakening category 1 storm.

As I said above, this storm stirred the passion. I got to track the storm from beginning to end. I understood, as much as a 11 year old could, the mechanics of hurricanes and weather in general. Even though Hugo was a devastating storm, Andrew was a catastrophe. The staggering numbers of homes destroyed and people left homeless. It was the first storm of the highest magnitude that I had witnessed. I'm sure that anyone from my generation with interest in weather could vividly remember Andrews' chronology. For some reason Andrew stuck out. Even when it was getting torn to shreds by that upper low. It stuck around. It took on a character all its own.

I have several favorite pictures of Andrew, but the one that sticks out the most in my mind is the storm approaching the Bahamas. This was one small, mighty storm.



In late July of 1994 an African tropical wave entered the Atlantic waters. Like most tropical waves that move off of Africa, it continued on its way across the Atlantic, into the Caribbean, then across Central America into the Pacific. On August 11th this wave formed a tropical depression, then bacame Tropical Storm John later that day. What followed was a 31 day/8,000 mile journey across the Pacific Ocean.

At it's peak John reached category 5 status, with 175mph sustained winds. There are some descrepancies to it's lowest minimum pressure, I have found. 929 millibars is the lowest pressure measured by hurricane hunter aircraft, however, in one advisory from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center the estimated pressure was 910 millibars. If anyone could clarify what the official lowest pressure for this storm is I would greatly appreciate it.

After John passed the International Dateline the cyclone appeared to be caught in the westerlies and began to gain latitude and weaken. After completing a loop a trough finally caught John and accelerated the storm northeastward. John had weakened to a tropical storm and was even classified as a depression for a short while. Later examination of data indicated that John never lost tropical storm status during this time. However, after crossing back over the International Dateline, John re-intensified into a 80kt hurricane.

John was the third category 5 hurricane the churn across the Central Pacific in 1994, following Emilia and Gilma.

This is John near peak intensity. It's the best satellite photo I have yet to find.



The first "O" named storm, and this isn't the only reason why Opal made it to this list. Opal wasn't only a major hurricane at landfall, at that point in time it was the third costliest U.S. landfalling hurricane, not adjusted for inflation.

Opal was another one of those 'wake-up' call type hurricanes. Eventhough Andrew was just three years prior and Hugo was still fresh in everyone memory, these hurricanes were slightly different from Opal. For a few days prior to their eventual landfall both Hugo and Andrew were already powerhouse storms, Opal wasn't. Hurricane Opal was turning out to be one of those typical hurricanes that come out of the Bay of Campeche towards the Gulf Coast, an accelerating category 1 cyclone. Then a combination of favorable conditions turned this category 1 hurricane into a category 4, approaching category 5 even!

This was the wake-up call. The rapid intensification of an approaching hurricane. Eventhough Opal 'weakened' to a category 3 storm at landfall, folks the day before landfall were preparing for a category 1 hurricane and woke up the next day to a 150mph sustained wind monster with a 916mb central pressure.

As remarkable as the sudden increase in intensity was the fact that not one life was lost to the storm surge, which was up to 14 feet in some locations.

This is the best shot of Opal I could find. Unfortunately Opal reached peak intensity during the satellite eclipse.



Georges was a classic Cape Verde storm which made 5 landfalls throughout the Caribbean, then eventually made two U.S. landfalls. The first in Key West, Florida and its final landfall in Biloxi, Mississippi.

What makes Georges memorable wasn't just its 7 landfalls. All 7 of its landfalls were at hurricane strength. What was also so amazing about this storm was eventhough it spent great lengths of time over land, it was able to maintain hurricane strength.

Despite Georges almost attaining category 5 status, it only made one landfall as a major hurricane. Georges also dumped 10 to 20 inches of rain across Mississippi and Alabama one week after weak Tropical Storm Hermine moved through.

This satellite picture shows Georges pounding the Keys. When I found this picture it immediately reminded me of Katrina as it moved over The Keys. I will provide a picture of both storms. Simply amazing the similarity.


Katrina over The Keys.


For six years and 358 days Mitch stood as the most intense October Atlantic hurricane. Then, of course, came Wilma, which broke everything. Mitch is also one of the most deadly hurricanes recorded, with over 9,000 confirmed deaths and just as many 'missing', which might as well be considered a fatality.

Mitch brought to life the scary realization that a hurricane could come ashore, in these 'modern' times, and kill tens of thousands. It's not a wonder how such a high death toll was experienced. Video clips from Honduras and Nicaragua showed enitre mountainsides sliding into flooded valleys. Rivers that flowed as powerful as a lahar. The highest reported rainfall total was around 3 feet, but I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere got over 6 feet of rain.

Mitch lingered over Honduras for almost a week before moving northward and re-developing into a modest tropical storm over the Gulf of Mexico, eventually making landfall in Florida.

As Mitch was going through its rapid intensification phase of developent fears were that this hurricane would continue moving northwest, through the Yucatan Channel and into the Gulf. Mitch then put on the brakes and did something that most forecasters didn't expect - it began moving southward. A strong high built down from the north and shoved the hurricane into Central America.

This image captures Mitch near peak intensity during the evening of the 26th. One thing that I always notice about these strong category five cyclones when compared to say a strong category four storm - the cloud pattern within the CDO seems to lose a convective appearance and takes on a whirlpool appearance.


Next will be Hurricane Lenny - 1999

Updated: 11:23 AM GMT on June 27, 2007


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Thomas is an avid weather enthusiast, landscaper and organic gardener. This blog is dedicated to Northeast and tropical weather forecasting. Enjoy!

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