Hurricane Bonnie was the second named storm, the first hurricane, and the first major hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season. After an inactive start to the 1998 season, Bonnie developed from a tropical wave that emerged off the coast of Africa on August 14. Bonnie became a tropical depression on August 19 in the open Atlantic Ocean, forming as a Cape Verde hurricane. Bonnie skirted the Leeward Islands before making landfall in North Carolina as a just under Category 3 strength hurricane. Bonnie was initially feared to be a repeat of 1996's Hurricane Fran, but thankfully, was nowhere near that devastating.

Bonnie caused $1 billion (1998 USD) in damage and 5 deaths. Bonnie was also the third hurricane to hit North Carolina in three years, coming after hurricanes Bertha and Fran.

Bonnie on August 26 shortly before its North Carolina landfall
Formation August 19, 1998
Dissipation August 30, 1998
Highest winds 115 mph
Lowest pressure 954 mbar
Deaths 5
Damages $1 billion (1998 USD)
Areas affected Leeward Islands, North Carolina, Mid-Atlantic St

Meteorological History

After a slow start to the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, a tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa on August 14 and headed westward across the Atlantic Ocean without developing. On August 19, the wave developed into Tropical Depression Two while located east of the Lesser Antilles. After forming, the depression moved on a west-northwesterly track, due to a strong high pressure ridge. The depression became Tropical Storm Bonnie on August 20. On August 21, Bonnie passed north of the Lesser Antilles, and did little to no damage. Although Bonnie was strengthening as it headed west-northwest, and eventually northwest, its wind field was very asymmetric, because of its rapid foward motion. Bonnie slowed down however, making its wind field become more symmetrical. Bonnie strengthened into a hurricane on August 22 while located north of Puerto Rico. With favorable upper-level conditions, Bonnie strengthened to its peak of 115 mph as a Category 3 hurricane on August 23. Steering currents weakened considerably, and Bonnie drifted to the northwest because of that.

When the subtropical ridge re-intensified itself, Bonnie continued to the northwest, though moving at a much faster pace, rather than a snail's pace. Bonnie encountered dry air and cooler waters while heading northwest, yet it still retained its peak of 115 mph despite the bad conditions, as measured by Hurricane Hunter aircraft. Just prior to landfall, Bonnie weakened because of the unfavorable conditions, but it still made landfall as a 110 mph Category 2 hurricane near Wilmington, North Carolina on August 27, very close to the same location Bertha hit in 1996. After landfall on August 27, Bonnie weakened over coastal North Carolina to a tropical storm, and then turned to the northeast in response to a mid-level trough. Bonnie re-strengthened over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, however, after it exited the North Carolina coast.

Bonnie became a Category 1 hurricane again on August 28. Bonnie managed to strengthen to 85 mph, then it accelerated to the northeast, weakening to a tropical storm late on August 28 due to cooler waters. Bonnie turned east, passing south of Atlantic Canada, and Bonnie became extratropical on August 30.


As Bonnie approached, numerous Hurricane Watches and Warnings were issued from South Carolina to Virginia, with over 1,000,000 residents and tourists heeding the mandatory evacuation orders that were issued. Forecasters predicted that Bonnie would bring a storm surge of 9-11 feet, with severe beach erosion also being expected from the hurricane. In addition, swimming was banned for fear of rip currents from the approaching hurricane.


Bonnie was the third hurricane to directly impact the state of North Carolina in three years.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, where Bonnie made landfall, it brought strong winds throughout the state, as well as the state of Virginia. Frying Pan Shoals, which is located in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean off of Cape Fear, North Carolina, received the highest sustianed winds of 87 mph with Bonnie, and the highest gust of 105 mph. Stronger winds likely occured elsewhere in unrecorded locations. On land, there were two reports of hurricane-force winds associated with Bonnie, although numerous local areas experienced tropical storm-force winds from the hurricane. Because Bonnie's winds were relatively light, damage was relatively minimal, although the winds did caused widespread tree damage, as well as roof damage, and crop damage. 1.3 million people lost power from Bonnie between North Carolina and Virginia, with 282,000 people losing power in the city of Hampton Roads, Virginia alone.


Hampton Roads experienced the worst damage from Bonnie, with damage totals possibly reaching up to hundreds of millions of dollars. Aside from the impact in Hampton Roads, not much else is known as to what Bonnie did in the state of Virginia, though it was likely nothing significant.

In all, Bonnie caused an estimated $720,000,000 (1998 USD) in damage. Bonnie was also initially feared to be a repeat of the devastating Hurricane Fran of 1996, but ended up being far less deadly than Fran and far less damaging. Three people were killed as a result of Bonnie, with one of the 3 direct deaths listed in this article possibly being an indirect one.

Lack of Retirement

Because damage was not extreme, the name Bonnie was not retired in the Spring of 1999 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was re-used in 2004, and is on the list of names to be used for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

1998 Atlantic hurricane season