Hurricane Lili was the twelfth named storm, the eighth hurricane, and the sixth major hurricane of the 1996 Atlantic hurricane season. Lili caused considerable damage across Central America, Cuba, and the Bahamas. Lili also left $300,000,000 (1996 USD) in damage to Great Britain.

Lili killed 10 people in all.

Lili at Category 3 intensity
Formation October 14, 1996
Dissipation October 29, 1996
Highest winds 115 mph
Lowest pressure 960 mbar
Deaths 10
Damages $662+ million (1996 USD)
Areas affected Central America, Cuba, Bahamas, Ireland, Great Britain

Meteorological History

A tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa on October 4, and already had a large cyclonic rotation of low clouds, as well as a mid-tropospheric jet. The wave moved westward across the unfavorable Atlantic Ocean, battling strong wind shear as it did so. On October 11, the wave passed through the Windward Islands, where a marked wind shift, as well as large 24-hour pressure changes occured. On October 13, the wave reached the southwestern Carribean Sea, where a pre-existing low-pressure area was located. On October 14, the wave developed a well-defined low-level closed circulation, and it became Tropical Depression Twelve at 1200 UTC on October 14, just east of Nicaragua. The depression moved to the northwest, then later on turned north, then north-northeastward, due to a weak mid to upper-level low over the Gulf of Mexico. Despite there being considerable banding features and falling surface pressures, aircraft data showed that the depression was not a tropical storm. On October 16, the depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Lili, while centered close to Swan Island. Due to well-established outflow over the circulation center, Lili became a hurricane on October 17.

The slow-moving hurricane executed a small cyclonic loop just north of Swan Island on October 16, then wobbled again on October 17 as it approached the Isle of Youth. The center of Lili passed over the Isle of Youth near 0100 UTC on October 18, then Lili made landfall on the southern coast of Cuba's mainland as a Category 2 hurricane. Lili turned eastward as it made landfall, then after exiting the coast of Cuba, Lili remained at Category 2 intensity, with a pressure of 975 mb. A major trough in the westerlies brought Lili to the northeast at a foward speed of 25 knots on October 19. Lili accelerated towards the Bahamas. The eyewall affected portions of Long Island, Rum Cay, and Cat Island. Shortly thereafter, Lili reached its peak as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds, and a pressure of 960 mb at 0000 UTC on October 20. Late on October 20, Lili's center passed about 130 miles southeast of Bermuda. Afterward, Lili continued moving northeast, gradually weakening as it did so, due to cooler waters and increased wind shear.

Lili turned eastward on October 22, and Lili became nearly stationary as a mid-level shortwave high pressure ridge came into longitudinal phase with Lili. Lili continued moving erratically eastward until October 24, and then it began to accelerate to the northeast again. On the 25th, Lili re-intensified to 85 knots. On October 26, Lili weakened to a tropical storm, with the center passing about 300 miles northwest of the Azores. On October 27, Lili became an extratropical cyclone, remaining a 55-knot system until crossing Great Britain on October 28. Lili's remnants crossed the northern Europian mainland on October 29.


Lili killed 10 people: eight in Central America, and two in Great Britain. There are no damage figures available for the Bahamas and Central America are not available, but there was $662,000,000 (1996 USD) in damage in Cuba and Great Britain.

United States

Storm surge produced by Lili caused $150,000 (1996 USD) in damage along the coast of New Hampshire. Florida received up to a foot of rain in the days that preceded Lili, as a frontal boundary on its northern periphery led to moderate to heavy rainfall, mainly along the Gold Coast. Also, some areas of New England picked up to 13 inches of rain in Rockingham County, when a frontal boundary drew moisture from Lili, even though it was well-offshore.


In Cuba, Lili produced strong winds and heavy rainfall, forcing the closing of the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, with 247,000 people being forced to evacuate in that region. In Isla de la Juventud, the winds plucked some 16,000 tons of grapefruit, as well as oranges from trees. Also, 20-foot waves swept beach-side cottages out to sea. In Villa Clara, all 28 sugar refineries were severely damaged by Lili. Also, in Old Havana, dozens of old and poorly-built buildings collapsed in Lili's fury. In all, Lili destroyed 2,300 buildings in Cuba, and damaged another 47,000 buildings in the country. Much of the sugar, coffee, banana, and citrus harvests were ruined by the hurricane. Total damage from Lili was estimated at $362,000,000 (1996 USD). Thankfully, Lili killed no people in the country.


Damage figures for the Bahamas are not available, although there were reports of severe damage.

Great Britain

On October 28 and October 29, Lili's extratropical remnants slammed into Great Britain, producing a 92 mph wind gust at Swansea, South Wales, and it also brought a 4-foot storm surge that inundated the River Thames. In the city of Somerset, 500 holiday cottages were severely damaged by Lili's extratropical remnants. Also, a United States oil drifting platform, under tow in the North Sea, broke loose during the storm and nearly ran aground at Peterhead. Also, on the Isle of Wight, a sailing boat was breached at Chale Bay. Thankfully, all five occupants were rescued. Lili was the most damaging storm to strike Great Britain since the Great Storm of 1987. Lili killed 2 people in Great Britain, and left $300,000,000 (1996 USD) in damage.

Finally, Lili managed to break a four-month drought over southwest England.

Lack of Retirement

Despite the damage, the name Lili was not retired in the Spring of 1997 by the World Meteorological Organization. However, the Lili that was used in the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season was retired, and replaced with the name Laura for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

1996 Atlantic hurricane season