Hurricane Ernesto was the sixth named storm, and first hurricane of the inactive 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, forming from a vigorous tropical wave that exited the African coast in late August. After forming, Ernesto briefly attained hurricane status early on August 27 while south of Haiti. However, interaction with the mountainous terrain of Haiti weakened Ernesto to a tropical storm with 60 mph winds. After weakening, Ernesto never regained hurricane status, remaining a tropical storm until it was over central Florida, at which point it weakened to a tropical depression. After becoming a depression, Ernesto reintensified into a 70 mph tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean before making landfall near the North Carolina/South Carolina border, making landfall near Long Beach, NC which is near the North Carolina/South Carolina border. After landfall, Ernesto got trapped in the Mid-Atlantic states by a blocking high pressure area, producing torrential, flooding rains as it was stalled over the Mid-Atlantic.
Ernesto eventually became extratropical and dissipated in early September. Ernesto caused at least a total of $500,000,000 (2006 USD) in damage in the United States, primarily due to flooding.
|Formation||August 24, 2006|
|Dissipation||September 1, 2006|
|Highest winds||75 mph|
|Lowest pressure||985 mbar|
|Deaths||7 direct, 4 indirect|
|Damages||$500,000,000 (2006 USD)|
|Areas affected||Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mid-Atlantic states, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, eastern Canada|
In late August, the fourth week to be exact, a tropical wave exited the coast of Africa, and instead of moving northwest like Tropical Storm Debby did, this wave headed westward, but did not develop initially because of wind shear and the presence of the Saharan Air Layer, which significantly hindered any development of the wave. However, on August 24, when the wave approached the Windward Islands, it began to become much more organized. Hurricane Hunter Aircraft found a closed surface circulation within the wave after a flight into the system on August 26, and so the system was upgraded to Tropical Depression Five after the flight. The depression soon strengthened into the fifth tropical storm of the season, Tropical Storm Ernesto on August 25. After forming, Ernesto reached hurricane status in the early hours of the morning of August 27.
Ernesto reached its peak of 75 mph after forming, and battered Haiti with tropical storm force winds and torrential, flooding rains. Ernesto made landfall on the extreme southern tip of Haiti as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds on August 27. Although Ernesto, at one point was forecast to become a Category 2 hurricane and strike Cuba, then enter the Gulf of Mexico and become a major hurricane and make landfall somewhere along the central Gulf Coast, Ernesto weakened back to a tropical storm with 60 mph winds after moving away from Haiti. The weakening was caused because Ernesto interacted with the mountainous terrain of Haiti. Had Ernesto's circulation not have been disrupted by Haiti, it would've likely undergone rapid intensification, as Ernesto was most likely doing anyway when it strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane early on August 27.
After moving away from Haiti, Ernesto made landfall in Cuba and was located 20 miles west of Guantanamo Bay on August 28 as a tropical storm with 45 mph winds. After passage over Cuba, Ernesto's circulation was disrupted further, the storm weakening to a minimal tropical storm with 40 mph winds. Once Ernesto entered the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico near Florida, however (the reason for Ernesto's sudden track towards Florida, rather than the central Gulf Coast was because of an unexpected center reformation, which caused Ernesto move several hundred miles east of the original path that Ernesto was expected to take), Ernesto reintensified into a tropical storm with 45 mph winds. Ernesto didn't strengthen any further, but didn't weaken any further either, making landfall as a tropical storm with 45 mph winds on Florida's west coast on August 29.
When Ernesto was over central Florida, it was operationally thought to have weakened to a tropical depression, but post-season analysis confirmed that Ernesto was still a tropical storm during its passage through central Florida. Ernesto moved to the northeast and exited into the Atlantic Ocean on August 30. On August 30, quick reintensification to a 70 mph tropical storm prompted Hurricane Watches to be posted for South Carolina and North Carolina. Ernesto didn't make landfall as a hurricane, despite the sudden burst of intensification, but instead made landfall near Long Beach, NC as a tropical storm with 70 mph winds, close to the North Carolina/South Carolina border.
Radar image of Ernesto making landfall in North Carolina.
After making landfall, Ernesto moved northward across North Carolina and Virginia, and then became an extatropical gale on September 1. After this, Ernesto stalled over the Mid-Atlantic United States, thanks to a blocking area of high pressure centered over far northern Quebec and Ontario. With nowhere to go, Ernesto continued to dump heavy, flooding rains on the Mid-Atlantic states. On September 2, Ernesto moved to the west of the Chesapeake Bay. After that, Ernesto moved northwards into New York on September 3. On September 4, the remnant low-pressure area that was once Ernesto dissipated over southeastern Ontario, becoming absorbed by an occluded cyclone that was developing over Maine.
In Haiti, emergency officers were on regional radio and told residents living in low-lying areas to evacuate to schools or churches, since Ernesto would bring the threat of flash flooding to the country. Meteorologists in Haiti were forecasting rainfall potentially up to 20 inches would fall in the mountainous areas of the country, causing serious life-threatening flash flooding in the country. In Haiti, Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 killed 3,000 people when it came through the country as a mere tropical storm, because of its flooding rains. Haiti's biggest concern from a tropical cyclone isn't their wind, it's their torrential rainfall, since over 90% of Haiti's trees that would normally protect the area from flash flooding, due to the trees absorbing the mudslides that come down the slopes, have been cut down over the years. Evacuations in the city of Gonaives were ordered, probably to not endanger the residents in that city who were already devastated by floods from Hurricane Jeanne in 2004.
In Jamaica, officials issued televsion advisories, as well as radio advisories for residents living in low-lying areas, urging those residents living low-lying areas to evacuate if they had to. Armed forces were on standby in the country, and all shelters on the island were opened up. There were long lines reported at local businesses, since residents were rushing their storm preparations to completion, by buying last minute hurricane supplies. After a Tropical Storm Warning was posted for Jamaica and the central Bahamas, cruise ship companies said that they were diverting liners in order to avoid Ernesto.
In Cuba, Hurricane Warnings were posted for the southeastern portion of the country. Up to 20 inches of rain was expected along the southern part of the country in the mountains, which would cause tremendous and very deadly flash flooding in the country. Fishing fleets were brought into their respective harbors, and 300,000 people were evacuated because of the threat of Ernesto. Cuban officials were prepared for Ernesto before it made landfall in western Cuba, 20 miles west of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Hurricane Warnings were issued for six eastern provinces in Cuba. Cuban state television broadcast extensive warnings because of Ernesto, and urged residents to take precautions because of the threat of Ernesto. Tourists were evacuated from hotels on the southeastern part of the country. To be exact, on the southeastern province of Granma. Also, cattle were moved to higher ground, and baseball games that were schedueled for August 27 were played earlier in the day because of Ernesto.
In Florida, a mandatory evacuation was ordered by the Key West National Weather Service for all non-residents and visitors in the Florida Keys, because of the threat of Ernesto (the evacuation started at 1:00 PM EDT. Monroe County opened up shelters on August 30. An evacuation of special needs residents and residents living in Mobile homes began at 6 AM and 10 AM EDT. A mandatory evacuation order of Miami-Dade and Broward County mobile home residents was issued. Schools in Miami-Dade County and Monroe County were closed on Tuesday, August 29 and Monday August 30. Broward County schools were scheduled to be closed on Tuesday with a decision to be made Wednesday. National Guardsmen were placed on standby, following a warning order to its commanders on August 26. Florida also activated its Emergency Operations Center in anticipation of the storm. Florida Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency because of the threat of Ernesto.
On August 28, a Hurricane Watch was issued for south Florida. A Hurricane Watch was also issued for all of the Florida Keys. Jeb Bush urged residents in Florida to take the storm seriously, even if it was a weak storm, stating that a "hurricane is a hurricane", and urging residents to have at least 72 hours worth of supplies to prepare for Ernesto. Overall, Ernesto's impacts in the state of Florida were much less than originally forecast.
Ernesto making landfall in Florida.
In South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford mobilized 250 National Guardsmen to direct traffic in the state, just incase evacuation orders were issued for the state. Evacuation orders were never issued.
The governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley, dispatched 200 National Guardsmen troops and also had other emergency teams on standby, in anticipation of Ernesto.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine declared a state of emergency, putting the state agencies and the Virginia National Guard on alert. He also opened up the state's new Emergency Operations Center in Richmond.
Rest of Mid-Atlantic
In parts of Washington D.C., Delaware, and Maryland, had a Coastal Flood Watch issued for them, as well as a Flash Flood Watch by the National Weather Service, because of Ernesto's threat to the area.
In the Dominican Republic, Ernesto's heavy rainfall caused river flooding, as well as mudslides, which damaged several houses in the country. In Barahona, total rainfall amounts from the storm reached 6.99", which is quite a bit, but nothing significant. This rainfall total was among the highest reported in the Dominican Republic from Ernesto. Trees were downed thanks to the flooding rains, and over 400 houses had floodwater inundate them near Santo Domingo. This forced the evacuation of over 1,600 people in the country.
In Haiti, Ernesto caused tropical storm force sustained winds, as well as heavy, flooding rainfall. The winds and rain destroyed 13 homes on the island of La Gonave. One person was confirmed dead in Île à Vache as a result of Ernesto's storm surge. Another person was killed in the Artibonite valley as a result of Ernesto's impact on the country. Ernesto knocked down some telephone lines in various parts of Haiti as well. Rainfall significantly damaged a bridge in Port-Au-Prince, isolating the southern part of the region. Ernesto also damaged 53 homes in Haiti, killed 5 people, and destroyed 3 homes.
In Cuba, Ernesto produced heavy rainfall in the eastern portion of the country. Guantanamo reported 3 inches of rain in just 4 hours, which is a very high amount of rainfall for that amount of time. The Cuban Civil Aeronautics Institute stated that flights throughout the country would be cancelled until further notice. In the Camaguey Province, Ernesto's winds left some residents without power. There no reports of major damage, deaths, or injuries in Cuba as a result of Ernesto, which is very good news. More than 700,000 people in Cuba were evacuated in anticipation of Ernesto.
In Puerto Rico, a two day rainfall total of 4.69" was reported at the Sabana Grande ALERT station. Other than that, no noteworthy impacts were felt in Puerto Rico from the storm.
In southwestern Florida, Ernesto dumped heavy rains, the highest rainfall amount reported being 8.72" at the Sourh Golden Gate Estates in Collier. Two people were reported to have been killed on the mainland of Florida in road accidents caused by Ernesto's heavy rainfall. Approximately 6,800 Florida Power & Light customers lost power as a result of Ernesto. However, it did not take very long for power to be restored to the 6,800 customers. Winds in Ernesto were generally light, with wind gusts ranging from 20-35 mph in central Florida as Ernesto passed over the area. The winds knocked down a boat, and caused one surfer to become battered by high waves. The surfer was rescued, and escaped with only scrapes and cuts. On August 30, Southwest Airlines canceled 80 flights, Orlando International Airport canceled 150, and AirTran canceled 70 flights. Overall, damage in Florida attributed to Ernesto was very light.
In South Carolina, Blythewood reported a rainfall total of 5.75 inches as a result of Ernesto's outer rainbands.
Ernesto made landfall in North Carolina near Cape Fear late on August 30, as a 70 mph tropical storm. A day before Ernesto's landfall, rainfall from Ernesto was intercepted by a frontal boundary that was stalled across North Carolina. This frontal boundary helped to produce a lot of heavy rainfall. The maximum amount of rain reported in North Carolina was 14.61" of rain at Palmele Isle in Wrightsville Beach, and that was only because it came straight from Ernesto's core. On September 1, a 12 mile stretch of Interstate 40 was closed for a short time because of flooding from Ernesto. On the Outer Banks of North Carolina, waves and standing water shut down part of the main road area. Finally, one traffic death was reported in North Carolina because of Ernesto. Damage to crops in North Carolina totalled about $76,000,000 (2006 USD).
In Virginia, Ernesto dumped heavy rainfall, amounting to 10.62" of rain in Wakefield. In Gloucester County, Ernesto's strong winds caused a large tree to fall on a modular home. Inside the home, two people were killed as a result of the fallen tree. Total damage in Virginia was $118,000,000 (2006 USD).
In St. Mary's County in Maryland, damage totaled to $4.4 million (2006 USD). High tides attributed to Ernesto's gale-force winds swamped St. George Island in St. Mary's County, Maryland.
In Pennsylvania, generally 2-4 inches of rain fell across the state because of Ernesto.
In New York, generally 2-4 inches of rain fell across the state because of Ernesto. Ernesto's rainfall also caused delays in the play at the 2006 U.S. Open, washing out a whole day's play.
From North Carolina to Connecticut, 600,000 utility customers lost power as a result of Ernesto. Dominion Resources's Tidewater Virginia area took 2-3 days to have power complete restored after the cyclone's passage through the area. A woman died because of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning because of an electrical portable generator, during a power outage. Two deaths were also reported in Pennsylvania.
Lack of Retirement
On September 22, President George W. Bush declared 19 countines in Virginia federal disaster areas. This declaration allowed for federal funding to assist in paying for rebuilding public facilities that were damaged as a result of Ernesto's flooding.