Hurricane Felix was the sixth named storm, third hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season. Felix formed on August 8 in the eastern Atlantic Ocean well to the east of the Leeward Islands, and well to the southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. Felix moved to the west-northwest and ultimately attained Category 4 status. Felix had threatened Virginia at one point, but it turned away, executed an anticyclonic loop, weakened to a tropical storm, and recurved out to sea. Felix was a Cape Verde hurricane, and very long-lasting, finally dissipating on August 22. Felix caused significant beach erosion across the East Coast of the United States.
Felix caused $132,000 (1995 USD) in damage and killed 8 people, all direct.
|Formation||August 8, 1995|
|Dissipation||August 22, 1995|
|Highest winds||140 mph|
|Lowest pressure||929 mbar|
|Damages||$132,000 (1995 USD)|
|Areas affected||Bermuda, East Coast of the United States|
|Part of the||1995 Atlantic hurricane season|
Felix originated from a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on August 6. The wave quickly showed signs of a low-level circulation as it moved westward across the Atlantic Ocean, per satellite imagery. At 0000 UTC August 8, the wave gained enough organization to be considered Tropical Depression Seven while located about 400 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. After forming, the depression quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Felix later on August 8 and moved west-northwest for 15 to 20 knots over the next three days. At 0000 UTC August 11, based on satellite estimates, Felix attained hurricane status while located about 500 miles east-northeast of the Leeward Islands. Reports from a reconnaissance aircraft indicate that Felix underwent rapid intensification from the time of the first eye penetration at 1200 UTC August 11 and through August 12. Felix is estimated to have strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with maximum sustained winds near 140 mph, near 1800 UTC August 12. At this time, a well-defined eye was evident in satellite imagery. On August 12, Felix turned to the northwest, then to the north as it started to weaken on August 13. There were two factors that likely contributed to the cyclone's weakening. The first is an eyewall replacement cycle, and the second is strong upper-level wind shear when the anticyclone that was atop Felix did not remain over the low-level circulation center. On August 13, when Felix was centered 300 to 400 miles south-southeast of the island of Bermuda, data from a reconnaissance aircraft indicated that Felix had a broad wind field with several wind maxima, and no tight center of circulation. These characteristics would persist for much of the remainder of Felix's existance. Felix turned northward due to a large deep-layer trough over the western Atlantic Ocean. The trough split as the cyclone approached, with one part of the trough moving to the northeast and filling and the other part of the trough southward to the southwest of Felix. This steering pattern allowed Felix to turn northwest on August 15, and this motion would persist into August 16. This track took Felix within 65 miles of Bermuda and toward the coast of North Carolina.
Due to the split in the trough, increased ridging occured over the western Atlantic Ocean, which appeared to be strong enough to force Felix towards the East Coast of the United States. However, a small weakness in the ridge remained at 70 and 75°W as indicated by Air Force and NOAA reconnaissance data on August 16. Late on August 16, Felix turned northward into the aforementioned weakness and stalled. It then moved slowly to the northeast on August 17. On August 18 and 19, a second trough in the westerlies failed to pick up the cyclone, and Felix preformed an anticyclonic loop offshore as the trough bypassed the cyclone. On August 20, Felix accelerated to the north, and then to the northeast on August 21 due to the approach of a third trough. During August 17-19, Felix had a 50-70 mile wide eye on aircraft radar, and it also had rather weak convection in satellite imagery. In spite of this, Felix maintained sustained surface winds of 75 to 80 mph, minimal hurricane status, as a well as a central pressure near 970 mb. It's possible that this structure of the cyclone was due to dry, cooler air entrained into the circulation center at the low- to mid-levels of the atmosphere. On August 20, Felix weakened to a tropical storm as it moved over cooler water and upper-level shear increased over the cyclone. On August 22, Felix became extratropical about 300 miles east-northeast of Newfoundland. Felix's extratropical remnants were tracked across the North Atlantic Ocean between Scotland and Iceland, and then finally towards Norway.
Felix off the coast of North Carolina.
Initially, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicted that Felix would strike the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 100 mph, although there was great uncertainty in this forecast. While Felix was still near Bermuda, officials in the United States issued a Hurricane Warnings from Little River, South Carolina to Chincoteague, Virginia on August 15. In addition, a Tropical Storm Warning was issued from Chincoteague, Virginia to near Manasquan, New Jersey that same day. Also on that same day, officials in Dare County, North Carolina ordered a mandatory evacuation for the Outer Banks, a decision that cost $4,000,000 (1995 USD) in daily losses for local businesses. At the time, over 200,000 tourists as well as residents were in the evacuation zone, including 5,000 to 8,000 in Hatteras, the city furthest from the mainland by road. Had Felix continued on its path towards North Carolina, it would've made landfall during the evening of August 16. Because of the threat from Felix, schools were closed in Dare County, and shelters were opened up further inland in the state, namely in schools. These schools were in Roanoke Rapids and Rocky Mount.
Officials in southeastern Virginia feared Felix would cause a repeat of the 1933 Chesapeake Potomac Hurricane, which produced a deadly storm surge in downtown Norfolk. Contrary to typical North Carolina hurricanes, which usually parallel the coast, Felix was predicted to make landfall rather than just parallel the coast, a situation which would cause significant storm surge. The large size of the cyclone, the potential for re-intensification, as well as the slow motion of the storm, caused fears of a worst case scenario in which case 7 to 9 feet of water would be pushed onshore and produce widespread flooding throughout southeastern Virginia. Because of Felix's projected path, 66 U.S. Navy ships departed the Norfolk Naval Base for safer waters.
Although Felix did not make landfall, because of its large size, it produced large swells across much of the East Coast of the United States. In Puerto Rico, 8 to 12 foot waves caused minor coastal flooding in Cataño. Felix also killed 8 people due to strong rip currents as well as high waves.
In Bermuda, Felix caused officials to issue Hurricane Warnings for the island a day before Felix passed it. The Bermuda International Airport cancelled flights during Felix's impact on the island, and gusty winds downed numerous trees as well as power lines. Although no wind reports are available in Bermuda, it is estimated that Felix produced winds of 80 to 85 mph on the island. The hurricane's passage postponed the scheduled vote for Bermuda's independence. Felix initially left 20,000 residents without electricity, but power was quickly restored. Also, rough surf from Felix destroyed a few boats and damaged hotels along the southern portion of the island, but damage was minor.
East Coast of the United States
While stalling offshore, Felix produced high waves in excess of 15 feet at Martha's Vineyard. In addition, peristent cyclonic winds caused strong rip currents along the coast. The rip currents and high waves caused three drowning deaths in North Carolina and five in New Jersey. Felix's strong winds caused extensive beach erosion in North Carolina and New Jersey, especially in Ocean City, New Jersey, where 240 feet of beach was lost and 10 foot cliffs were formed. In Atlantic City, beaches were closed for the first time since Hurricane Gloria in 1985. In Virginia, flooding occured due a storm surge in excess of 4 feet. Also, numerous other beaches from North Carolina to Massachusetts were closed due to Felix. A storm surge of 2.5 feet above normal occured in most locations, including the Outer Banks where North Carolina Highway 12 was flooded sporadically for four days.
Because the hurricane remained offshore, it produced little property damage. Two houses in The Hamptons were washed away by Felix's waves. 20 to 30 homes experienced minor damage in North Carolina, totaling to $57,000 (1995 USD) in damage. High waves from Felix sunk two boats with person in each off the coast of Maine. Total damage to the boats reached $75,000 (1995 USD). Both men swam to shore, but one suffered minor injuries. Also, high waves swept a woman out to sea in Bailey Island, Maine. She was eventually rescued, but suffered from hypothermia as well as cuts all over her body.
In Nova Scotia, authorities closed several beaches due to waves as high as 20 feet. Also, buoys near the coast of Newfoundland recorded waves as high as 49 feet, while buoys further offshore reported waves as high as 82 feet. Felix dropped light rainfall of 1.5 inches as it passed by Nova Scotia.
Lack of Retirement
Because it did not make landfall, and thus minimized its potential for catastrophic damage, the name Felix was not retired in the Spring of 1996 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was used again during the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season, and used again during the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, and may be retired in the Spring of 2008 by the WMO due to its destructiveness.