Hurricane Lenny was the twelfth named storm, the eighth hurricane, and fifth major hurricane of the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season. Lenny formed in the Carribean Sea in the middle of November from an area of disturbed weather that had persisted in the Carribean Sea in the second week of November. Lenny peaked as a 155 mph Category 4 hurricane with a pressure of 933 mb. Lenny moved from west to east throughout its lifetime, the first time this had happened with any Atlantic hurricane on record since record keeping began in 1886. Lenny caused severe damage as a major hurricane in the Leeward Islands, particularly the northern islands. Lenny is also the strongest tropical cyclone to ever develop during the month of November in the Atlantic basin.
Lenny killed 17 people and caused $330,000,000 (1999 USD) in damage.
|Formation||November 13, 1999|
|Dissipation||November 23, 1999|
|Highest winds||155 mph|
|Lowest pressure||933 mbar|
|Damages||$330,000,000 (1999 USD)|
|Areas affected||Colombia, Puerto Rico, Leeward Islands|
A broad area of low pressure formed in the southwestern Carribean Sea on November 8. The low drifted to the north, and as it did so, it slowly organized itself because of warm water temperatures and low wind shear. On November 13, the low had gained enough organization to be classified as Tropical Depression Sixteen, while it was located 300 nautical miles south-southwest of Kingston, Jamaica. Upper-level conditions were very favorable for strengthening, and on November 14, the depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Lenny. Lenny moved to the east-southeast, this motion in part caused by the southern portion of the deep-layer trough located over the western Atlantic Ocean. On November 15, Lenny became a hurricane while centered south of Jamaica, and later that day, Lenny reached Category 2 intensity. However, Lenny's small inner core was disrupted by environmental changes, and as a result, Lenny quickly weakened back to a poorly-organized Category 1 hurricane. On November 16, Lenny's inner core re-established itself, and as a result of this and very favorable conditions aloft, Lenny rapidly intensified to its peak as a 155 mph Category 4 hurricane with a pressure of 933 mb on November 17 while centered over the northeastern Carribean Sea. That same day Lenny reached that peak, it made landfall in St. Croix. A ridge to the north and east of Lenny forced the hurricane to drift over the Leeward Islands from November 17 through November 19. As Lenny moved east-southeast Saint Martin, Anguilla, Saint-Barthélemy, and Antigua on November 18 and November 19, upwelling steadily weakened the hurricane.
When Lenny exited the islands, strong upper-level wind shear aloft as well as cooler water temperatures rapidly weakened Lenny. Lenny weakened to a tropical storm on November 19, and to a tropical depression on November 21. Lenny dissipated on November 23 in the open Atlantic Ocean.
Lenny was an unusual tropical cyclone in several different ways. First, it moved through the Carribean from west to east, the reverse path that tropical cyclones usually take in the Atlantic basin. It was the first time such a movement had ever been seen in the Atlantic basin with a tropical cyclone since record keeping began in 1886. The last hurricane to strike the western portion of the Lesser Antilles was Hurricane Klaus of the 1984 season.
Also, Lenny was unusual in that it became a 155 mph Category 4 hurricane at its peak, just 1 mph shy of Category 5 status, the highest possible rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. This makes Lenny the strongest hurricane on record to develop during the month of November in the Atlantic basin. Finally, Lenny was the fifth Category 4 hurricane of the 1999 season, which broke the record for the amount of Category 4's in a single season in the Atlantic basin. This record was tied, but not broke, during the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.
Hurricane Lenny with 135 mph winds.
Initially, Lenny was forecast to move through the Leeward Islands as a Category 3 hurricane. Lenny's sudden intensification into a near Category 5 hurricane surprised residents of the Leeward Islands. On November 16, Hurricane Warnings were issued for much of the Leeward Islands. In preparation for a possible landfall, a FEMA team was deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, bringing 6,000 rolls of roofing-quality plastic sheeting, 112 generators, and 90,000 gallons of water. Also, medical teams were sent to Puerto Rico as well in preparation for the hurricane.
Early on in its life, Lenny produced large waves and swells Guajira Peninsula. Two sailers were killed when their yacht was lost in the southern Carribean Sea. Along the coast of Colombia, Lenny flooded 1,200 homes, leaving 540 people homeless. Also, Lenny caused moderate crop damage in the country.
Lenny was initially forecast to make landfall in Puerto Rico. Thankfully, the country was spared a direct hit from the hurricane. Despite this, Lenny's outer rainbands produced torrential rainfall across the country, and 14.64 inches of rain was reported in Jayuya, which caused mudslides in the southeastern portion of the country. More than 4,700 people were in shelters, 80,000 people were without electricity, and 100,000 people were without safe drinking water.
Lenny made its first landfall in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The unprotected southwestern portion of the island experienced hours of heavy rainfall from the hurricane, amounting to 8 inches. In addition, Category 4-force winds, high waves, and a 15-foot storm surge occured on the island. The high winds and the heavy rainfall impacted the agricultural sector of the island, while many boats on the northern portion of the island either sank or were washed ashore by Lenny. Although damage was heavy, it was not extreme, and no people are reported to have died on the island.
Damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands from Lenny.
Damage to the Frederiksted Pier in St. Croix.
Lenny later hit Saint Martin, Anguilla, Saint-Barthélemy, and Antigua while drifting through the Leeward Islands. Extremely heavy rainfall fell on these islands, with a maximum amount of 27.56 inches on St. Martin. The intense rainfall led to mudslides, which caused numerous houses to be destroyed. An extensive storm surge, high winds, and 12 foot waves caused significant beach erosion on the west coasts of those islands, the side which is rarely affected by a landfalling hurricane. The industries that were most affected by Hurricane Lenny were the agricultural, fishing, and tourism.
Because of the large size of the storm, Lenny also impacted the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, Barbuda, Martinique, and Montserrat. 20 foot waves battered those islands, which caused some buildings to be damaged. Heavy rainfall and strong winds killed 6 people across those islands. In Dominica, hotels along the island's west coast experienced significant damage from Lenny, with a 35% loss of the banana crop, as well as 40% of the roads being washed out. In Barbuda, 95% of the crops were destroyed by the monstrous hurricane, and 65% of the island was flooded by the storm.
Because of the damage, the name Lenny was retired in the Spring of 2000 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was replaced with Lee for the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, and is on the list of names to be used for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.