Hurricane Gordon was the seventh named storm and third hurricane of the 1994 Atlantic hurricane season. Gordon was the final storm of the season, forming on November 8 offshore Nicaragua. Gordon attained tropical storm status after affecting Central America. It then moved generally east-northeast and passed over Jamaica. Gordon then moved more northeast and made landfall in eastern Cuba, then moved west-northwest into the Florida Straits. It passed over the Florida Keys, then moved northeast and made landfall along the western Florida Peninsula. Gordon then moved northeast and was expected to recurve out to sea, but it abruptly made a loop, attaining hurricane status as it did so. Gordon then moved to the southwest and west, making its final landfall along the northeastern Florida coast as a tropical depression. Gordon dissipated on November 21. Gordon caused 1,122 deaths in Haiti from flooding and mudslides. Gordon caused $514,000,000 (1994 USD) in damage and 1,147 deaths, all direct. Death tolls may have gotten possibly higher; estimates of Gordon's toll may never be known.
|Formation||November 8, 1994|
|Dissipation||November 21, 1994|
|Highest winds||85 mph|
|Lowest pressure||980 mbar|
|Damages||$514,000,000 (1994 USD) -|
|Areas affected||Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina|
|Part of the||1994 Atlantic hurricane season|
An area of disturbed weather was noted across the southwestern Carribean Sea during much of the first week of November. The convection in association with this area of disturbed weather was enhanced by the passage of two tropical waves. The second tropical wave spawned a low-level circulation center just north of Panama around 0000 UTC November 6. By 1200 UTC November 7, the system had organized enough to warrant its first Dvorak classification. Early on November 8, deep convection became concentrated in a cluster not far off the southeastern coast of Nicaragua. By 1800 UTC that same day, the system is estimated to have developed into Tropical Depression Twelve while located just offshore the southeastern coast of Nicaragua. The depression had limited upper-level outflow, with it restricted mainly to the north and northeast. This limited the intensification of the cyclone. The depression moved toward the coast of Nicaragua and reports from a hurricane hunter aircraft indicated that the cyclone was nearing the Nicaraguan coast by 1800 UTC November 9. In addition, the aircraft reported that the depression was nearing tropical storm status, but land interaction prevented further intensification. From 0000 to 1200 UTC November 10, the depression hugged the coast of Nicaragua. It made landfall near Puerto Cabezas at 0600 UTC that same day. After landfall, the depression began to move to the northeast in response to an upper-level trough to the northwest. Once the cyclone moved back over water, it intensified into Tropical Storm Gordon at 1800 UTC November 10. Reports from a reconnaissance aircraft over the following 24 hours indicated that Gordon changed little in strength as the storm moved slowly to the north-northeast. surface observations as well as aircraft observations indicate that Gordon consisted of a broad circulation that covered much of the western Carribean Sea, with which a smaller scale vortex was embedded within. Visible satellite imagery on November 11 indicate that Gordon was experiencing west-southwesterly vertical wind shear. On November 12, Gordon turned east-northeast, then east, heading for Jamaica. Although bursts of deep convection were occuring near and to the east of the circulation center, the cyclone remained disorganized, with maximum sustained surface winds near 45 mph. On November 12, Gordon's low-level circulation center was clearly exposed on satellite imagery. Early on November 13, Gordon made landfall across eastern Jamaica and accelerated further, nearing the eastern coast of Cuba by 1200 UTC that same day. As the cyclone passed near Guantanamo, Cuba, the center became disorganized and difficult to locate. It is estimated from surface observations, however, that the center that was previously being tracked moved rapidly northward across Cuba and neared the southern portion of the Bahamas by 1800 UTC November 13. Around this time, Gordon's structure started to become more complicated. While Gordon was crossing Cuba, an upper-level trough, which had been intensifying near 80°W north of 20°N, spawned an upper-level low near the Straits of Florida. This upper-level low appeared to induce surface cyclogenesis in the vicinity of the central Bahamas. From 1800 UTC November 13 to 0000 UTC November 14, there were multiple low-level centers embedded within a much larger circulation that covered much of central and eastern Cuba, as well as the Bahamas. This larger circulation had accompanied Gordon since it formed, but it strengthened and was modified by the influence of the aforementioned upper-level low. After 0000 UTC November 14, Gordon's cloud pattern and wind field resembled that of a subtropical cyclone, with a circulation center dominant just to the south of the central Bahamas. A deep-layer ridge near the mid-Atlantic coast as well as a deep-layer cyclone (within which Gordon was embedded) caused Gordon to move to the west-northwest. Due to the increased pressure gradient between the large low-pressure area that accompanied Gordon, as well as the high pressure area to the north, produced near gale force winds over portions of the Florida Peninsula late on November 13. On November 14, Gordon passed south of the western Bahamas and moved across the Straits of Florida early on November 15. During this time, there was a lack of deep convection near the center, and the cyclone's strongest winds were well-removed from the center. Radiosonde data indicated that Gordon was largely a cold-core baroclinic system, save for a mid-level warm core in the eastern semicircle. As Gordon moved across the Straits of Florida, hurricane hunter aircraft indicated that the center was near the north coast of Cuba. However, at this time, Gordon's center was broad and light winds covered much of the southern Florida Straits. Just before dawn on November 15, radar imagery from Key West indicated that Gordon's center was reforming just to the south of the lower Florida Keys, closer to the deep convection. A special radiosonde released into Gordon from Key West at 0600 UTC showed a mid-level warm core near the center of Gordon, which indicated that the cyclone was regaining tropical characteristics. Gordon's broad center moved northwest across the Florida Keys, and decelerated over the extreme southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Early on November 16, the cyclone turned north, then north-northeast due to the influence of a mid- to upper-level shortwave trough moving eastward from the central United States. Gordon made landfall along the southwestern Florida Peninsula near Fort Myers by 1300 UTC that day, with winds of 50 mph. Gordon emerged into the Atlantic Ocean just north of Vero Beach at 2200 UTC November 16. At this time, the central pressure was dropping, and ship reports also indicated that Gordon was strengthening. Shortly after emerging into the Atlantic Ocean, Gordon strengthened and reached winds of 65 mph. Gordon accelerated northeast on November 17, attaining hurricane status as it did so. Just when Gordon appeared to be headed out to sea, however, it abruptly slowed down and turned north, then northwest, and then finally west-northwest towards the coast of North Carolina. The abrupt change in motion could be attributed to a mid-level ridge that built over the eastern United States behind the shortwave trough that accelerated Gordon and caused it to make landfall near Fort Myers on November 16. It could also be due to the fact that the aforementioned trough outran the storm. Gordon came within 80 miles of the Outer Banks at 1200 UTC November 18. Gordon weakened to a tropical storm at 1800 UTC that same day as it entrained cooler and drier air into its circulation center. The weakening was also caused by northwesterly wind shear aloft affecting the storm. Turning southward and then southwestward, Gordon executed a loop off the southeastern United States coast that resembled a figure 8. On November 19, Gordon lost most of its deep convection. Early on November 20, Gordon weakened to a tropical depression. Gordon turned west and then west-northwest and made landfall near Cape Canaveral, Florida. After landfall, Gordon turned north, then north-northeast, crossed Georgia, and then dissipated over South Carolina on November 22.
A Tropical Storm Warning was issued on November 14 for southeastern Florida as well as the Florida Keys, replacing the gale warning that was in effect for the area on November 13. This was done to raise awareness, even though the predicted winds in that part of Florida had not changed significantly.
A minor miscommunication with the government of the Bahamas resulted in some slight discrepancies in the status of Tropical Storm Warnings over the northwestern Bahamas on November 15 and 16.
Although Gordon was only a tropical storm for much of existance, it caused significant damage and a large amount of deaths. The United Nations estimated that the death toll in Haiti from the storm was 1,122. In addition, 6 deaths were reported in Costa Rica, 5 in the Dominican Republic, 2 in Jamaica, 2 in Cuba, and 8 in Florida. Total damage to the United States from Gordon was $400,000,000 (1994 USD). Property damage estimates for other affected areas are not available, but were stated to be severe in both Haiti and Cuba.
Haiti lost a total of 1,122 people to Gordon. Haiti is particularly vulnerable to tropical cyclones due to its massive deforestation, which prevents the trees from holding off impending mudslides and landslides triggered by flash floods from tropical cyclones. In addition, floodwater can travel freely without the blockage provided by trees. The lack of tree cover contributed to the significant flooding produced by Gordon that killed 1,122 people in the nation.
Jamaica and Cuba
Gordon produced heavy rainfall across both Jamaica and Cuba, though no damage figures exist for those countries.
In Florida, the highest sustained wind recorded was 46 knots at Virignia Key. Also, a peak wind gust of 72 mph was recorded by an amateur meteorologist in southern Dade County. In addition, Gordon produced heavy rainfall across the Florida Peninsula, except for in areas north of Fort Myers. Rainfall amounts of 6 to 9 inches occured over much of the eastern third of the peninsula, with nearly 11 inches of rain falling in Volusia County, 12 to 13 inches of rain fell across portions of southern and northern Dade County, and finally, rainfall amounts as high as 15 to 16 inches fell in portions of Broward County. Gordon spawned a total of six tornadoes, all of which occured in Florida. Four of these touched down in Palm Beach County: one in Delray Beach; one in Jupiter, one in Gulf Stream; and one in Lake Worth. Also, Gordon spawned a tornado in southern Volusia County near Iron Bend. The strongest tornado occured in southern Brevard County near Micco and Barefoot Bay. This tornado originated as a waterspout and moved onshore along a west-northwest path, striking the Snug Harbor/Barefoot Bay mobile home communities. It was last seen as a funnel cloud near Interstate 95 in southern Brevard County. Gordon caused most of its damage due to freshwater flooding of agricultural areas in Dade and Collier Counties. Gordon's strong winds knocked down trees, power lines, and traffic signals in southern Florida, and 425,000 people lost electricity. The cyclone caused a 508 foot Turkish cargo vessel to drag anchor off Fort Lauderdale, running it aground less than 50 yards off the beach. Gordon caused a total of 8 deaths in Florida, all direct. One death was caused when a man drowned off Fort Lauderdale in a rip current while trying to rescue his 8 year old son. In addition, one male surfer drowned off Haulover Beach in northern Dade County. One woman drowned along a beach in northern Dade County. Also, one man drowned, and one woman nearly drowned in Dade County when a car plunged into a canal during heavy rains produced by Gordon. Two men drowned when a boat was overturned at Hillsboro Inlet in Broward County by swells from Gordon (then located off the Georgia coast). Finally, a 74 year old man was killed due to trauma to the head during the tornado that struck Brevard County. This tornado also caused 40 injuries, with six people having to be taken to the hospital. There were 2 serious injuries in association with this tornado. Tornadoes in Gulf Stream and Jupiter caused no known damage, and the tornado in Delray Beach caused only minor damage. However, the tornado that touched down in Lake Worth uprooted several trees and damaged 2 businesses as well as 39 homes. The Volusia County tornado downed numerous trees and caused minor damage to some homes. The Brevard County tornado did significant damage in the Snug Harbor/Barefoot Bay mobile home communities, with about 62 mobile homes being destroyed, 46 receiving major damage, and 181 receiving minor damage. Gordon also produced significant beach erosion across Florida's east coast.
Gordon produced 10-minute average sustained winds of 62 knots at Diamond Shoals Lighthouse off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Gordon also produced significant beach erosion in North Carolina, just like it did along Florida's east coast. Five homes were destroyed along the Outer Banks, but those homes had already been condemned due to damage done a year earlier by Hurricane Emily.
Gordon disabled a 49 foot sailboat about 100 miles away from Norfolk, Virginia. The vessel's three passengers were rescued by via helicopter by the Coast Guard.
Rainfall totals from Hurricane Gordon.
Lack of Retirement
In spite of the major loss of life as well as fairly significant damage, the name Gordon was not retired in the Spring of 1995 by the World Meteorological Organization, although it should have gotten retired because of deaths and extreme destruction. It was used during the 2000 Atlantic hurricane season as well as during the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. It is on the list of names to be used for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.