Hurricane Isidore was the ninth named storm, second hurricane, and first major hurricane of the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season. Isidore formed on September 14 near the coast of Venezeula. The then tropical depression dissipated after emerging from Venezeula, degenerating into a tropical wave. However, on September 17, the wave re-strengthened into a tropical depression while south of Jamaica, then quickly strengthened into a tropical storm, receiving the name Isidore. Isidore quickly became a hurricane, striking the Isle of Youth and extreme western Cuba. At this point, Isidore was expected to strike the North Central Gulf Coast as a major hurricane, but instead it struck the northern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 3 hurricane due to an arupt track change. This spared the Gulf Coast from a significant disaster. Isidore did eventually strike extreme southeastern Louisiana, then Mississippi as a 65 mph tropical storm, however. Isidore dissipated on September 27.

Isidore caused $970,000,000 (2002 USD) in damage and caused 7 fatalities.

Hurricane Isidore offshore the Yucatan Peninsula
FormationSeptember 14, 2002
Dissipation September 27, 2002
Highest winds 125 mph
Lowest pressure 934 mbar
Deaths 4 direct, 3 indirect
Damages $970,000,000 (2002 USD)
Areas affected Cuba, Yucatan Peninsula, Louisiana

Meteorological History


On September 9, a tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa. Despite being in a dry environment, the wave's convection became organized as an anticyclone developed above the wave. On September 14, the wave was organized enough to be classified as Tropical Depression Ten while near Trinidad & Tobago. The depression almost immediately made landfall in Venezeula, and disruption from land weakened the depression back into a tropical wave as it emerged off the coast of Venezeula. The wave moved west-northwest through the Carribean Sea, and it became a tropical depression again on September 17 while located about 140 miles south of Jamaica. Embedded within an area of weak steering currents, it drifted to the northwest, and strengthened into Tropical Storm Isidore on September 18 near Jamaica. After grazing the island, Isidore strengthened into a hurricane late on September 19 while located to the south of Cuba. While near the Isle of Youth, Isidore's winds reached 100 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. As Isidore made landfall near Cabo Frances late on September 20, it weakened to an 85 mph hurricane. Isidore quickly crossed the island and emerged into the Gulf of Mexico, where it moved westward due to weak steering currents. Because of favorable environmental conditions and warm water temperatures, Isidore strengthened to reach a peak of 125 mph winds on September 21 as a Category 3 hurricane. Despite Dvorak estimates of 145 mph winds, hurricane hunter aircraft only measured 125 mph winds. Also, Isidore's pressure was 934 mb when the recon flew in. This pressure is typical of Category 4 hurricanes, and this is the lowest pressure for an Atlantic hurricane that never got above Category 3 intensity.

Because of nearly ideal conditions for strengthening, Isidore was forecast by the National Hurricane Center to reach 150 mph winds over the northern Gulf of Mexico. However, because of high pressures to its north, Isidore moved to the south and made landfall near Telchac Puerto in the northern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 3 hurricane on September 22. As Isidore stalled over the Yucatan, it rapidly weakened, and after 30 hours on land, Isidore was barely a tropical storm. Isidore's inner core collapsed because of its Yucatan passage, and upon emerging into the Gulf of Mexico once more, it was a large and weak tropical storm. Although atmospheric conditions favored significant strengthening, Isidore's inner core did not re-develop until it reached the northern Gulf of Mexico. On September 26, Isidore struck near Grand Isle, Louisiana as a 65 mph tropical storm, and it weakened to a tropical depression while over Mississippi.

Tropical Storm Isidore making landfall in Louisiana.

The storm quickly moved northeastward and became an extratropical cyclone on September 27 before becoming absorbed in a frontal zone over Pennsylvania that night.


Before Isidore even became a hurricane, there were fears that the storm would be a significant threat. The upper-level environment ahead of the storm was nearly ideal for strengthening. In addition, the ocean heat content was very high. As Isidore approached Cuba, it became apparent that these favorable conditions caused the storm to be a significant threat. Once emerging into the Gulf of Mexico, Isidore strengthened to reach 125 mph winds, and it was predicted that Isidore would move westward in the Gulf of Mexico for a few days, followed by a turn to the north towards the North Central Gulf Coast. Also, at the time, Isidore was forecast to be a strong Category 4 hurricane. Due to Isidore's unexpected southward turn into the Yucatan Peninsula, Isidore weakened quickly from a Category 3 hurricane to a minimal tropical storm, sparing the Gulf Coast from what could have been a significant disaster.


Carribean Islands

Even though Isidore affected the southernmost portion of the Windward Islands as a tropical depression, it caused no reported damage or casualties.

The Cayman Islands experienced tropical storm-force winds. In addition, flooding also more than likely occured there. Isidore caused no reported damage or fatalities in the Cayman Islands.

Isidore produced heavy rainfall in Jamaica, although no damage figures exist. No fatalities were reported on the island in association with Isidore.


Just 10 months after Hurricane Michelle struck the country, Isidore threatened to produce similar effects in Cuba. About 280,000 people as well as thousands of farm animals were evacuated in the Pinar del Rio province, in anticipation of Isidore. About 48 hours prior to Isidore's landfall, Hurricane Warnings were posted, which left residents plenty of time to prepare for the hurricane. Isidore produced torrential rainfall in Cuba, with many areas reporting over a foot of rain from the cyclone. The highest rainfall total reported in Cuba from Isidore was 21.7 inches at Isabel Rubio, located in western Cuba. The rainfall, in combination with a storm surge as high as 12 feet as well as strong winds, destroyed homes, caused power outages, uprooted trees, and blew roofs off of some houses. Over 130 tobacco drying houses were affected to some degree, damaging valuable tobacco stock. Also, at least 4,000 tons of fruit were lost because of the hurricane.

Damage in Cuba was mostly limited to crop and agricultural damages. Isidore caused no fatalities in the country.

Yucatan Peninsula

Isidore was initially predicted to stay north of the Yucatan Peninsula. Because of this, Hurricane Warnings were issued only a day prior to landfall. Around 70,000 people were evacuated, and many ports on the Gulf of Mexico side of the Yucatan were closed. Prior to the arrival of the hurricane, Mexican officials declared a state of emergency. Isidore made landfall near Mérida, Yucatan as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph. Isidore remained in the general area of Mérida for around 36 hours. Coastal flooding of about 1 foot was reported along the coast, with varying amounts of flooding reported inland. Over 12,800 homes were destroyed in the Yucatan Peninsula from Isidore's strong winds, and 300,000 people were left homeless by the hurricane. Also, downed trees and power lines were common across much of the northern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, and 75% of barns and warehouses were either severely damaged or destroyed by the hurricane. In addition, damage to livestock and crops was extreme; 80% of maize production land, 400 square kilometres of fruit trees, 90% of the poultry production, and 80% of the pigs were lost during the storm in Yucatan.

The state of Yucatán experienced the worst Isidore had to offer, although its neighboring provinces were greatly affected by the hurricane as well. Between 15,000 and 20,000 homes were destroyed by Isidore's strong winds. Farming in Campeche received significant damage from Isidore, with 30,000 cattle and 100,000 acres of agricultural land lost from the storm.

Throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, there were no direct deaths attributed to the cyclone. However, there were two indirect deaths. Total damage in the Yucatan Peninsula reached $640,000,000 (2002 USD).

Gulf Coast

In preparation for the potentially deadly hurricane, the Red Cross mobilized its members across Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida while five days before Isidore's expected landfall. Volunteers were sent in the days prior to ensure families had a family disaster plan and a disaster supplies kit in their household. Hurricane Watches and Hurricane Warnings were never issued for the Gulf Coast, however, because by the time Isidore was close enough to land, it was only a tropical storm. Thus, only Tropical Storm Warnings were required for the Gulf Coast. While in the open Gulf of Mexico, Isidore and later Hurricane Lili contributed to the shutdown of offshore oil and gas platforms. The effects of back-to-back hurricanes resulted in the loss of production of 14.4 million barrels of oil and 88.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Isidore produced moderately heavy rainfall across Louisiana and Mississippi, and the rain was confined to a widespread area, with a maximum of 7.5 inches at the New Orleans International Airport. The flooding Isidore produced was responsible for moderate crop damage, with a total of $330,000,000 (2002 USD) in damage. According to the NHC, Isidore claimed five lives; four direct and one indirect. The indirect death was from a man that went into cardiac arrest in Mississippi, whereas the other four were drowning deaths.


Because of the damage, the name Isidore was retired in the Spring of 2003 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was replaced with Ike for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

2002 Atlantic hurricane season


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