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Hurricane Erin was the fifth named storm and second hurricane of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season. Erin formed at around midnight on July 31 near the Bahamas, quickly attained hurricane status, and made landfall along the eastern Florida Peninsula as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Erin then emerged into the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall on the Florida Panhandle near Pensacola, Florida as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 100 mph. Erin weakened after landfall as it moved northwest, north, and then northeast, merging with a frontal zone over West Virginia on August 6.

Erin caused $700,000,000 (1995 USD) in damage, which is quite a high amount considering Erin was barely a Category 2 at landfall. In addition, Erin killed 6 people directly, and 7 indirectly.

Erin making landfall on the Florida Panhandle
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FormationJuly 31, 1995
Dissipation August 6, 1995
Highest winds 100 mph
Lowest pressure 973 mbar
Deaths 6 direct, 7 indirect
Damages $700,000,000 (1995 USD)
Areas affectedJamaica, Bahamas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi
Part of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season


Meteorological History

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A tropical wave exited the coast of Africa on July 22. The wave was accompanied by a large area of disturbed weather as well as two distinct low-level circulation centers. The circulations were oriented from northwest to southeast and moved in tandem to the west-northwest for the next five days. By July 27, both circulations were generating deep convection northeast of the Leeward Islands. On July 28, the first Dvorak classifications were taken on the system. The T Numbers increased to 2.5 by midday on July 30, possibly indicative of a tropical cyclone sustained winds of 40 mph. In reality, although the cloud pattern was slowly organizing and surface pressures were falling ahead of the system in the Bahamas, development was hindered by southwesterly wind shear associated with an upper-level low that was moving southwest at 10 to 15 knots across Florida. Data from a hurricane hunter aircraft on July 28, July 29, and midday on July 30 indicated that the wave did not have a closed surface circulation. Rather, it was a vigorous tropical wave with winds of 45 mph in the northern part of the circulation based on ship reports. Due to the potential for development as well as its proximity to the Bahamas and Florida, a special nighttime reconnaissance mission was requested by the National Hurricane Center and flown by the hurricane hunters late on July 30. Shortly after 0100 UTC July 31, the first vortex message was transmitted to the NHC by the hurricane hunters. Based on that information, it is assumed that the wave developed into Tropical Storm Erin at 0000 UTC July 31 while located very near the Bahamas. The aforementioned upper-level low near Florida affected Erin's movement as well as development. Associated steering currents moved Erin at a speed of 5 to 15 knots and moved the cyclone along the northeastern periphery of the upper-level low. The temporary and fairly subtle change of heading from west-northwest to northwest might have been insignificant had Erin not been so close to land.

Instead, Erin's track was near or over much of the Bahamas and then towards a landfall over east-central (as opposed to southeastern) Florida. As this occured, there was enough wind shear due to the upper-level low to only allow Erin some slow intensification. On the evening of July 31, Erin became a hurricane while located near Rum City in the Bahamas. Erin displayed a ragged eye on August 1, as per satellite imagery. At around 0600 UTC August 2, Erin made landfall near Vero Beach, Florida as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with winds of 85 mph.

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Radar image of Erin making its first landfall over the Florida Peninsula.

As Erin crossed the Florida Peninsula, its track bent back to the west-northwest during the morning and early afternoon hours of August 2. During its time overland, Erin weakened to a 60 mph tropical storm, but it remained well-organized despite its passage over land. Upon emerging into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Erin moved northwest at about 10 knots, re-intensifying as it did so. On the morning of August 3, Erin made its final landfall near Pensacola, Florida. Although an eye had redeveloped, Erin's outflow pattern was not particularly impressive on satellite imagery. Erin had winds of 100 mph in a small portion of its northeastern eyewall when the northeastern eyewall came ashore near Fort Walton Beach. Erin weakened to a tropical storm over southeastern Mississippi overnight on August 3 and August 4. It turned north on August 5, and by this time, it was a tropical depression. On August 6, Erin turned to the east. Erin merged with a frontal zone over West Virginia on August 6.

Preparations

Florida

A Hurricane Warning was issued from New Smyrna Beach southward to Lake Okeechobee. In addition, a Tropical Storm Warning was issued from New Smyrna Beach northward to St. Augustine. Also, a Flood Watch was issued for all of east-central Florida. Finally, a Tornado Watch was posted for east-central Florida. Initially, the evacuation of 800,000 people was ordered due to the threat from Erin. As the storm moved north, but 400,000 residents remained evacuated in Palm Beach County. Police in the county were sent patrolling, in order to prevent looting. About 300 military aircraft in the Florida Panhandle were evacuated to neighboring states.

At Erin's first landfall, a Tornado Warning was issued for eastern Volusia County after doppler radar indicated a possible tornado offshore the county. The warning said that the tornado was approaching the coast at Ormond Beach and Holly Hill. In addition, the National Weather Service in Melbourne warned that other storms offshore Volusia County, aside from the one that merited the warning, had rotation within them. NASA had to halt some activities or preparation of shuttles at Kennedy Space Center due to Hurricane Erin.

During Erin's second landfall, in the Florida Panhandle, a Tropical Storm Watch 37 hours prior to landfall, a Tropical Storm Warning 25 hours prior to landfall, and a Hurricane Warning 23 hours prior to landfall.

Alabama

Dauphin Island as well as low-lying areas of Mobile County were under a voluntary evacuation. Also, the state opened up shelters in order to house evacuees. On August 2, a Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the southern coast of the state.

Mississippi

In Mississippi, a Tropical Storm Watch was issued that included the southern coast of the state.

Louisiana

9,000 residents underwent mandatory evacuations in southeastern Louisiana because of Erin. Also, a state of emergency was issued for the state. On August 2, a Hurricane Watch was issued that included from south of the mouth of the Pearl River to the mouth of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. Later on August 2, the watch was upgraded to a warning. On August 3, this was discontinued. A Tropical Storm Watch was also issued on August 2 that included east of the Pearl River to south of the mouth of the Pearl River. The last Hurricane Warning was issued from Grand Isle to Morgan City on August 3. All other Hurricane Warnings were then discontinued.

Impact

Widespread tree downings, power line, crop, and roof damage was reported throughout the Southeastern United States.

Jamaica

In Jamaica, Erin produced heavy rainfall, which caused a plane crash that killed 5 people. The plane was a Cessna 310 twin-engine aircraft, owned by RegionAir, a subsidiary of the Guardsmen Group. The aircraft had four employees from Brinks Jamaica in it, who were due to testify in a court hearing. The plane departed from the Tinson Pen Aerodome in Kingston, Jamaica, and was bound for Montego Bay, St. James. Two teenagers were killed on a football field in Braeton in Saint Catherine Parish when lightning from Erin struck them.

Bahamas

In the Bahamas, all of the islands sustained some form of damage from Erin, which was characterized as by the Bahamas Department of Meteorology as mostly minor, with much of the damage coming from sunken boats. Some of the other damage resulted from structural damage and crop loss. Total damage reached $400,000 (1995 USD). Also, hurricane force sustained winds were experienced over a portion of the Bahamas from Erin. Erin produced a wind gust of 128 knots at Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, due to a tornado.

United States

Georgia

Some beach erosion was reported in Georgia from Erin, but no significant damage occured there.

Florida

In Florida, where Erin made both its U.S. landfalls, Erin caused 6 drowning deaths in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean sides of Florida. Also, a ship was sunk due to Erin. More than 1,000,000 residents lost electricity because of the hurricane. Erin caused $700,000,000 (1995 USD) in damage, mainly in Florida. Erin produced moderate beach erosion across Florida's east coast as well as panhandle. Numerous waterspouts as well as tornadoes were reported throughout Florida because of Erin, with one tornado in particular causing minor damage in Titusville. Another tornado, located near Lake Lizzie, killed two horses, downed trees, and blew roofs off of some homes. Erin produced a 2 to 4 foot storm surge along the east coast of Florida during its first landfall. A 1 to 2 foot storm surge was reported along Florida's west-central coast because of Erin. At Navarre Beach, a storm surge of 6 to 7 feet occured, and 3 to 4 foot storm surges were reported at Pensacola Beach. FEMA declared Florida a federal disaster area after Erin struck.

At the Kennedy Space Center vicinity, NASA reported a wind gust of 82 mph from the east-southeast, measured at a wind tower. The most significant damage from the storm's second Florida landfall was near Pensacola and Navarre Beach, where almost one third of the buildings experienced significant damage from the storm. At Pensacola Naval Air Station, a sustained wind of 101 mph was reported. The tower of the Pensacola Airport was evacuated due to strong winds, and data is thus unavailable from that location. More than 2,000 homes experienced damage from Erin. Also, some beach erosion occured west of Navarre Beach. There was a massive amount of crop losses in northwestern Florida from Erin. An estimated 63% of power customers in the Florida Panhandle lost power because of Erin. At Erin's second landfall, two tornadoes were reported. One touched down in southern Amelia Island, which caused trees to fall and block route A1A. Also, a portion of a roof was torn off a mall on the south side of Jacksonville Beach due to a tornado spawned from the cyclone.

Alabama

In Alabama, Erin caused $20,000,000 (1995 USD) in damage, per the American Insurance Services Group. This is estimated at half the total damage estimated by the National Hurricane Center.

Erin blew down trees and power lines in the southwestern portion of Alabama, with at least 100 homes experiencing damage in Alabama. The pecan crop lost 50 to 75% of its total portion in Baldwin County.

Mississippi

In Mississippi, Erin produced winds of 90 mph in Jackson, even though it made landfall in Pensacola, Florida. The American Services Group estimated that there was $5 million of damage in Mississippi, which is estimated at half of the total damage by the National Hurricane Center.

It is unknown how many homes Erin damaged in Mississippi.

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Rainfall totals from Hurricane Erin.

Lack of Retirement

In spite of the damage, the name Erin was not retired in the Spring of 1996 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was used again during the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season, and was used again during the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. Erin may or may not be retired in the Spring of 2008 by the WMO.

See Also

1995 Atlantic hurricane season

References

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/1995erin.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Erin_%281995%29

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