Hurricane Lili was the twelfth named storm, fourth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season. Lili developed on September 21 about 900 miles east of the Windward Islands. Lili moved west-northwest and degenerated into a tropical wave while southeast of Jamaica. Lili quickly regenerated, however, and struck the Isle of Youth and western Cuba as a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, the same spot Hurricane Isidore affected earlier in the season. Once in the Gulf of Mexico, Lili rapidly intensified, reaching Category 4 status. Lili was expected to make landfall in west-central Louisiana as a major hurricane, but it instead weakened very rapidly, and made landfall on October 3 as a Category 1 hurricane instead. Lili dissipated on October 4.
|Formation||September 21, 2002|
|Dissipation||October 6, 2002|
|Highest winds||145 mph|
|Lowest pressure||938 mbar|
|Deaths||14 direct, 2 indirect|
|Damages||$882,000,000 (2002 USD)|
|Areas affected||Windward Islands, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Louisiana|
Lili developed from a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on September 16. When the wave was about 900 miles east of the Windward Islands, it strengthened into Tropical Depression Thirteen. After forming, the depression moved quickly westward, and as it crossed the Windward Islands on September 23, it strengthened into Tropical Storm Lili. On September 24, as Lili passed the Windward Islands, it strengthened to 70 mph, which is just under hurricane intensity. Lili's strengthening was short-lived, however, and by that night, Lili had weakened to a minimal tropical storm. By September 26, Lili had lost its closed surface circulation and degenerated into a tropical wave. Despite this, the National Hurricane Center predicted that Lili would quickly regenerate. The forecasts were correct, as just 12 hours later on September 26, Lili's remnants began to reform in the central Carribean Sea. On September 27, Lili began circling around the south side of Jamaica, producing heavy rainfall on the island as well as nearby Haiti. When Lili was about 100 miles from the coast of Jamaica, its winds only increased to about 50 mph. Lili spent September 28th and 29th moving in an arch from the just off the east coast of Jamaica to just off the north coast of the island. Lili then moved westward towards Cuba late on September 29. On September 30, Lili strengthened into a hurricane, battered the Cayman Islands, and continued to intensify. By October 1, Lili's winds reached 100 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Lili made landfall in the Isle of Youth and in western Cuba with winds of 100 mph. After landfall, Lili emerged into the Gulf of Mexico. At this point, forecasters predicted that Lili would strike between the upper Texas coast and the middle Louisiana coast, putting emphasis on the Louisiana coast as a more likely target.
By late afternoon on October 2, Lili's winds had increased from 110 mph to 140 mph, which put Louisiana in line for an intense hurricane, rather than a moderate one. Lili continued to intensify as it generally northwest towards the Louisiana coast, and it reached its peak intensity of 145 mph by the morning of October 3. Lili was expected to hit Louisiana as at least a Category 3 hurricane. However, Lili instead weakened very rapidly in the 13 hours before landfall, all the way down to a Category 1 hurricane. Lili's weakening is the most dramatic weakening ever observed in the Atlantic basin since Hurricane Ethel in 1960 went from a Category 5 hurricane to a Category 1 hurricane in 6 hours. It's quite possible, however, that Ethel's intensity was greatly overestimated, as weather data was less reliable in 1960. Lili's rapid weakening surprised forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, who predicted Lili would hit as at least a Category 3 hurricane. On October 3, Lili made landfall near Intercoastal City, Louisiana with 90 mph winds, causing a storm surge of 10 feet along the coast.
Hurricane Lili at landfall in Louisiana.
Lili a well-observed hurricane at its final landfall in Louisiana, as three mobile radars were deployed to the area of predicted landfall, including the National Severe Storms Laboratory's SMART Radar. These high-resolution systems complemented NOAA's fixed NEXRAD radars in Lake Charles and New Orleans. Several instrumented towers were also deployed in the path of the hurricane to provide other measurements.
Lili killed at least 16 people throughout its lifetime, with 14 of those deaths being direct ones, and it left at least $882,000,000 (2002 USD) in damage. In addition, Lili broke a two year hiatus of U.S. landfalling hurricanes.
Four people were killed on the island of St. Vincent, and there was flood damage on the islands of Barbados and St. Lucia. Agricultural damage in St. Vincent reached $15,000,000 (2002 USD). In St. Lucia, damage was around $7.6 million (2002 USD), and damage in Barbados reached about $100,000 (2002 USD).
In Jamaica, Lili produced torrential rainfall, which triggered flash flooding, which killed four people and caused extensive damage to homes and buildings that were already weakened by Hurricane Isidore earlier in the month. From September 27 to September 30, 20 inches of rain fell on Jamaica, with the greatest damage occuring along the southern and eastern parishes of the island. Those parishes were missed by Hurricane Isidore. Also, areas that were previously saturated by Isidore were flooded by Lili. Because of the flooding, landslides were a common expectancy. 50 communities were affected by Lili in Jamaica, with 700 people in shelters. Lili destroyed a 10-mile long bridge, and it also blocked off several roads on the island. In addition, Lili knocked down power lines across the island. Three of the main water systems on the island were out of service, with one needing 2-3 months to complete. High water washed out latrines and sewage problems affected many communities. By October 2, 1,500 people were in shelters on the island, and that number was expected to potentially rise. Cornwall Hospital was closed due to electrical panel damage as well as flooding. Finally, two other hospitals in the district received ceiling leakages and minor disruption in services.
Lili made landfall near Pinar del Rio on October 1. According to the Cuban Red Cross, around 50,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Lili. Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth were the hardest hit by the hurricane. 60% of the water supply was disrupted, and most of the tobacco, rice, and food supplies were significantly affected by the hurricane. Most residents in the capitol city of Havana lost power, but it was gradually restored. At least 10 houses were partially collapsed in Havana, and schools were closed and train services were cancelled. Lili only killed one person in the country, despite the damage.
In Louisiana, where Lili made its final landfall, Lili produced significant damage to sugar cane fields, homes as well as businesses, despite only being a Category 1 hurricane. The storm surge Lili produced caused many levees to fail along the southeastern coast of Louisiana. In addition, Lili disrupted oil production. There were two indirect deaths from Lili in Louisiana. Total damage from Lili was at least $882,000,000 (2002 USD), of which $30,000,000 (2002 USD) was in Mississippi.
Lili passed through Arkansas as a tropical depression, bringing about 1 inch of rain.
Because of the damage, the name Lili was retired in the Spring of 2003 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was replaced with Laura for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.