The 1998 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1, 1998, and lasted until November 30, 1998. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin.

The 1998 season was active, featuring 14 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. Despite the official ending of the season being November 30, the season lasted until December 1, due to Hurricane Nicole remaining active into December 1. The most notable storms of the 1998 season are Hurricane Bonnie, which struck North Carolina at a just under Category 3 strength storm. Hurricane Georges caused widespread damage in the Carribean Sea as well as the Gulf Coast of the United States, and killed 603 people. The next notable storm of the season was Hurricane Mitch, which became one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded, becoming a Category 5 hurricane with 180 mph winds, and a minimum central pressure of 905 mb. Mitch killed at least 11,000 people, mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua, making Mitch the deadliest hurricane of modern times.

Season Summary

The 1998 Atlantic hurricane season ranks as the second most deadly Atlantic hurricane season on record. Hurricane Georges killed an estimated 603 people, mostly in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Georges, at the time, was the 19th most deadly Atlantic hurricane in the 20th century. Hurricane Mitch made Georges look like an ant, killing at least 11,000 people, mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua, due to extreme flooding and mudslides. Mitch is the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, behind only the Great Hurricane of 1780, which killed around 22,000 people.

Also, the 1998 season began relatively slow, with the first storm, Alex, forming in late July, just before the beginning of the month of August. After the formation of Alex, the next storm did not form until relatively late into August, but then the season remained active for the remainder of the season. Five storms reached hurricane strength in September, it makes this month among the most active on record. Also, 7 storms occured in the month of September, nearly setting a record for the most number of storms to form in the month of September. The 2002 season currently holds this record. In addition, two storms existed (one developed) during the month of November, of which one storm developed into a hurricane during the month. Also, seven storms made landfall around the Atlantic Ocean, of which four were hurricanes. The Gulf Coast alone experienced six tropical cyclone landfalls, a relatively high amount.

Finally, the 1998 season was extremely unusual in that it had four active hurricanes on September 26: Georges, Ivan, Jeanne, and Karl. The last time this was recorded during an Atlantic hurricane season was during the 1893 Atlantic hurricane season. To have three simultaneous hurricanes at one time is rare enough in the Atlantic basin, and three simultaneous hurricanes have only occured 7 times from 1950 through 2007.

Four simultaneous hurricanes on September 26.

List of Storms

List of Storm Names

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

Other Storms

On April 1, a large circulation developed 230 miles northeast of Antigua. As the circulation moved northeast, it steadily intensified, and developed deep convection near its center of circulation (which was a closed one), with winds increasing to gale-force. This low had tropical characteristics in the sense that the latent heat release in thunderstorms was the primary energy source for the system. On April 2, the National Hurricane Center issued a special special tropical disturbance statement. However, on April 3, convection around the low began to decrease and become less organized, with the low weakening further as it accelerated northeast on April 4. Also, several ships came into contact with the storm, with several ships reporting winds in excess of 40 mph, with ships also reported seas as high as 24 feet. The Tropical Prediction Center classified the system as a hybrid low. Also, the National Hurricane Center reviewed the data on the system to see if it was worth classifying as a subtropical cyclone. However, it was ultimately excluded from the Atlantic hurricane database.

Satellite image of the possible April subtropical cyclone.

On October 19, a broad area of low pressure developed over the northwestern Carribean Sea. It moved northwest, gradually developing organized convection as it crossed the Yucatan Peninsula. By October 21, the system had resembled the early stages of earlier storms Earl and Frances. A strong cold front to the north of the system caused the system to move to the southwest, with convection continuing to develop near the center of circulation of the system (this circulation, like the possible April storm, was also at the surface). Also, despite the system's interaction with the cold front, the system organized further, which prompted a Hurricane Hunter aircraft flight into the system. On October 23, the low moved ashore in Veracruz, Mexico, before the Hurricane Hunters reached the system. The low weakened, and it dissipated on October 24 over Mexico.

Finally, the nature of this low is unknown; the organization that occured just prior to landfall suggested that the system had tropical characteristics, but its interaction with the cold front to its north also suggested non-tropical characteristics. As a result, the Tropical Prediction Center classified the system as a hybrid/tropical low.

Retired Names

Two names were retired in the Spring of 1999 by the World Meteorological Organization; Georges and Mitch. They were replaced with Gaston and Matthew, both of which were used in the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season, and they were not retired.