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Tropical Storm Bill was the second named storm of the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. Bill formed on June 29 in the southern Gulf of Mexico while located to the north of the Yucatan Peninsula. Bill moved northward, gaining its peak strength of 60 mph winds as it did so. It made landfall 27 miles west of Chauvin, Louisiana on June 30 at peak intensity. After landfall, Bill turned northeast, quickly weakened, and Bill's moisture, combined with cold from an approaching cold front produced a tornado outbreak that spawned 34 tornadoes. Bill became extra-tropical on July 2, and was absorbed by the front on July 3.

Bill produced around $50,000,000 (2003 USD) in damage and killed 4 people, all directly.

Satellite image of Bill at peak intensity
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FormationJune 29, 2003
Dissipation July 2, 2003
Highest winds 60 mph
Lowest pressure 997 mbar
Deaths 4 direct
Damages $50,000,000 (2003 USD)
Areas affected Mexico, Gulf Coast of the United States, southeastern United States

Meteorological History

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A tropical wave produced scattered convection in the central Carribean Sea on June 24, as it interacted with an upper-level low. As the wave moved slowly northwestward, it remained disorganized because of strong upper-level wind shear. Late on June 27, the convection within the wave became slightly better organized, as the wave developed a broad area of low pressure. Despite its improved organization, further development was hindered by land interaction as the wave moved over the Yucatan Peninsula. The wave became better-defined over the Yucatan Peninsula, and, after turning to the northwest and emerging into the southern Gulf of Mexico, the wave quickly began to organize its convection. On June 29, when the wave developed a closed surface circulation, it became Tropical Depression Three while located 40 miles north of Progreso, Yucatan. The depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Bill later on June 29. Operationally, the National Hurricane Center did not begin issuing advisories on the system until it had already become a tropical storm. After forming, the storm initially resembled a subtropical cyclone, with its strongest winds being located well away from the circulation center. Nevertheless, because of its tropical origins, it was classified as a tropical cyclone rather than a subtropical cyclone. Bill steadily intensified as wind shear decreased, leading the National Hurricane Center to mention the possibility that Bill could become a hurricane if the low-level circulation moved underneath the deepest convection. Bill moved north-northwest, then north, under the influence of a ridge of high pressure to its east. On June 30, Bill reached its peak intensity of 60 mph with a pressure of 997 mb before making landfall one hour later 27 miles west of Chauvin, Louisiana.

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Tropical Storm Bill at landfall.

After landfall, Bill quickly weakened to a tropical depression as it accelerated to the northeast. Bill remained a tropical cyclone until July 2 when it became attached to an approaching cold front near the Tennessee/Virginia border. Bill's extra-tropical remnants were absorbed by the cold front on July 3 near central Virginia, while the remnant low continued northeast until reaching the Atlantic Ocean later on July 3.

Preparations

Shortly after forming, the National Hurricane Center issued a Tropical Storm Watch from the southern end of Galveston Island to Morgan City, Louisiana. As a more northerly component of motion resulted with the cyclone, the watches were upgraded to warnings from High Island, Texas to Pascagoula, Mississippi. Shortly before Bill made landfall, the warning was discontinued from High Island to Cameron, Louisiana. Also, the NHC briefly issued a Hurricane Watch from Inter-coastal City, Louisiana to Morgan City, but when Bill failed to strengthen, it was quickly discontinued. Prior to the cyclone's landfall, the National Weather Service issued Flash Flood Watches and a Tornado Watches for large portions of the Gulf Coast. The threat of Tropical Storm Bill caused 41 oil platforms and 11 oil rigs to evacuate. This resulted in a loss of production of over 71 trillion barrels of oil and 610 million cubic feet (17 million cubic meters) of gas. The American Red Cross mobilized workers and brought food, water, and other supplies to Louisiana prior to the storm's arrival. At the request of Louisiana emergency management officials, the organization opened two shelters for residents in low-lying areas. Several floodgates in New Orleans were closed before the storm made landfall, and many universities and government offices were closed as well. Parishes along the coastline closed summer camps and prepared sand bags, boats, and high-wheeled vehicles.

Also, a voluntary evacuation was issued for Grand Isle, though few residents actually left. Also, the Governor of Louisiana Mike Foster declared a state of emergency across the entire state of Louisiana in order to easily make state resources available. Also, the Governor of Mississippi Ronnie Musgrove made a similar declaration for Harrison and Hancock Counties. Shelters were also opened in those locations. Finally, officials in Mississippi ordered an evacuation of low-lying areas in anticipation for a moderate storm surge as well as above-normal tides.

Impact

Bill caused four direct deaths along its path, as well as minor to moderate damage. Damage estimates totaled to over $50 million (2003 USD), primarily as a result of flooding or tornadic damage. Throughout its path, Bill spawned 34 tornadoes, ranking it fourteenth in the list of Atlantic hurricanes generating the most tornadoes. The tornado outbreak was caused by wind shear, moist air from the storm, and cool air from an approaching cold front. In spite of the large numbers of tornadoes, most were weak and short-lived. Prior to forming, the storm produced rainfall along coastal areas of Mexico along the Bay of Campeche, peaking at nearly 4 inches in Yucatán, and over 3 inches in Campeche.

Texas

The outer rain-bands of Bill dropped light rain across southeastern Texas, peaking at 1.07 inches in Jamaica Beach. Sustained winds from the storm remained weak, and peak wind gusts were 20 mph in eastern Galveston County. Upon making landfall, Bill caused a storm surge of up to 3.81 feet at Pleasure Pier. Effects in Texas were minimal, limited to minor beach erosion on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Louisiana

A moderate storm surge accompanied Tropical Storm Bill as it made landfall on Louisiana. In the state, the maximum reported surge was 5.8 feet, and it occurred at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium facility in Chauvin. In Montegut, the surge breached a levee still was damaged from the effects of Hurricane Lili 9 months before. The breach flooded many homes in the town, forcing the evacuation of an entire neighborhood. As a result, 150 homes in the town were damaged, with half of them severely. The storm surge affected numerous low-lying cities in southeastern Louisiana by flooding roadways, including the only road to Grand Isle, stranding residents and visitors. The road was opened a day after the storm as floodwaters receded. The floodwaters entered a few homes and businesses in St. Tammany Parish. Damage from the storm surge totaled to $4.1 million (2003 USD). Rough waves sank two boats offshore, though their occupants were ultimately rescued.

The tornado outbreak associated with the storm began with an EF0 in St. Bernard Parish that destroyed a boat house. A short-lived EF1 tornado touched down in Reserve, striking a private school where it destroyed half a classroom, as well as damaged several others. Later on, that same EF1 tornado passed through a trailer park and severely damaged or destroyed 20 of the trailers. One trailer that had a woman and three children in it was lifted up in the air and dropped 30 feet away; although all four people inside were injured, none were seriously injured. Total damage from the tornado reached $2,000,000 (2003 USD). Finally, a third tornado, which was an EF0, touched down in Orleans Parish, damaging a car along with a portion of a roof. Winds of 35-45 mph were common across southeastern Louisiana as Bill made landfall, with the highest sustained winds being reported at 53 mph in the city of Chauvin. The peak gust associated with Bill was 62 mph on the northern end of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Bill's strong winds knocked down trees and tree branches onto power lines, which left 224,000 people without power. Bill dropped moderate to heavy amounts of rainfall as it made landfall, peaking at 10.2 inches 6 miles south of Folsom. The heavy rainfall produced flash flooding, which inundated roads as well as cars and overwhelmed local drainage capacities. The rainfall also led to overflown rivers and creeks, resulting in flooding along the Tangipahoa River in southern Tangipahoa Parish, and the Bogue Falaya and Tchefuncte River in St. Tammany Parish. The Bogue Falaya River crested at 57 feet on July 1, 12 feet above flood stage, which became a record for the recording station. The flooding damaged several structures and roadways. Less severe river flooding occurred in Washington and Livingston Parishes. In all, damage in Louisiana totaled to $44,000,000 (2003 USD).

Mississippi

Upon making landfall, Bill produced a storm surge of 4.99 feet in Waveland. The surge led to beach erosion, damaged piers, and flooded roadways, with total damage from the surge reaching $1,000,000 (2003 USD). The highest sustained wind report in the state from Bill was 43 mph at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, and that same airport along with Keesler Air Force Base both recorded a gust of 52 mph. Bill dropped moderate to heavy rainfall across the state, reaching 9.49 inches at Van Cleave. The strong winds, along with saturated ground, downed trees in several locations, with 34 roads in Pike and Walthall Counties being blocked by fallen trees. In addition, two homes were damaged. Also, power outages were reported near the coast. The heavy rainfall flooded various streets in different portions of the state, leading to overflown rivers. An overflown creek in Pearl River County flooded structures and roadways. Bill's outer rain-bands produced a tornado that briefly touched down in Waveland, blowing down several trees, which caused minor damage to roofs. Total damage in the state of Mississippi from Bill reached $5,000,000 (2003 USD), primarily from flooding.

Alabama

In Alabama, Bill produced heavy surf and tidal flooding along the coast. High waters closed a road to Dauphin Island as well as portions of a road along Mobile Bay. The cyclone produced 3 inches of rain across the southern half of the state, with some isolated reports of 8 inches of rain. Because of rainy conditions in the months preceding the storm, Bill's rainfall led to flash flooding in many counties in the state. The deluge led to overflown rivers and streams, and left several roadways temporarily impassable from high flood-waters. Saturated grounds and wind gusts of 30 to 35 mph downed numerous trees. Many downed trees landed on power lines, which caused power outages for around 19,000 people. One downed tree destroyed a car, and another damaged a roof of a house. A man had to be rescued in Lee County after he drove through flood-waters. The street flooding led to a few minor car accidents. Also, Bill's outer rain-bands produced an EF1 tornado in Crenshaw County. Early in the tornado's path, it was narrow, and damage was limited to downed trees, two destroyed sheds, and a few homes having their shingles ripped off their roofs, or experiencing damage from fallen trees. The tornado later reached a width of 1800 feet as it moved to the northwest. The tornado destroyed the roofs of two houses, one of which had its walls damaged. Eight minutes after its 3 mile path of destruction, the tornado dissipating, causing $200,000 (2003 USD) in damage and some slight injuries. A second tornado, rated EF0, touched down in southwestern Montgomery County. A small tornado with a width of only 180 feet, it moved northwest and knocked down a few trees that fell onto a mobile home, a regular home, as well as two cars. Six minutes after its 5 mile path of destruction, the tornado dissipated, causing $35,000 (2003 USD) in damage. Total damage in Alabama from Bill reached $300,000 (2003 USD).

Florida

Rainfall began affecting the state of Florida several days before Bill actually formed, with the southern portion of the state picking up 3 inches of rain. As Bill made landfall, it produced rainfall as high as or over 8 inches along the Florida Panhandle, which closed several roads or left them impassable because of flooding. Also, a stationary line of thunderstorms in Okaloosa County produced heavy rainfall of up to 6 inches in one hour, which caused flash flooding that washed out a portion of a bridge. In Bay County, heavy rainfall led to flooding that damaged 40 homes, and several residents in an apartment in the town of Parker needed to be rescued by boat from the floodwaters. Also, rough surf produced by the cyclone killed two swimmers at Panama City Beach. In addition, a dozen swimmers had to be rescued. Part of the tornado outbreak Bill produced extended into northern Florida. Total damage in Florida from Bill reached $1,000,000 (2003 USD).

Southeastern United States

Bill produced rainfall of around 1 inch in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri, and it produced over 5 inches of rain in some isolated locations of eastern Tennessee. Bill also produced moderately heavy rainfall in northwestern Georgia, peaking at 7.1 inches in Monroe. Locations in southeastern Georgia generally picked up around 1 inch of rain from the cyclone, though some coastal areas of the state did not pick up any rain at all from Bill. Heavy rainfall caused flooding in numerous areas around the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, which left some roads impassable or closed. The combination of moist air from the south, cool temperatures from a cold front to the north, and low pressures led to the formation of supercell thunderstorms throughout the states of Georgia and South Carolina, several of which spawned tornadoes. An EF1 tornado touched down in Georgia 3 miles north-northeast of the city of Pennington, passing through a farm and causing heavy damage to two dairy sheds, a John Deere tractor, and three metal storage buildings. The tornado destroyed a hay barn, a carport, and a car inside the carport as well, while also causing a tree to fall and kill one cow. In addition, this same tornado moved through a forested area, it toppled or sheared off hundreds of trees. As the tornado entered an urban area, it downed 30 isolated trees, some of which fell on a portion of Interstate 20, causing a temporary closure of the highway. The tornado damaged seven houses, primarily with roof damage, but one house did receive window damage, and another had a utility trailer and a car damaged by fallen trees. Finally, the tornado damaged a commercial building. Total damage from the tornado was $184,000 (2003 USD).

An EF2 tornado touched down in the city of Clito, knocking down trees and damaging mobile homes. Also, severe thunderstorms from Bill's remnants caused significant damage to a home located near the city of Louisville, and it also knocked down several trees. Also, a tornado was briefly associated with the severe thunderstorms. Bill produced thunderstorms in the city of Kite, which uprooted several trees onto a car as well as a house, and one man in Atlanta died because of a fallen tree. Total damage in Georgia from Bill reached $244,000 (2003 USD). The tornado outbreak spawned by Bill was the greatest in the Charleston, South Carolina National Weather Service area since the outbreak provoked by Hurricane Earl in 1998. One such tornado was an EF1 that touched down in the city of Hampton, uprooting trees and downing power lines. The tornado significantly damaged a Dollar General store, and also damaged several houses via fallen trees. Another EF1 tornado touched down near Smoaks, and uprooted trees, which caused a car crash because of a fallen tree. The tornado also caused heavy roof damage to a mobile home, and it also killed one dog. Bill produced heavy rainfall in northern South Carolina, with some locations reporting over 7 inches of rain from the storm. The heavy rainfall caused flash flooding in some areas, which caused damage.

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Tornado damage in Hampton, South Carolina.

Bill's remnants dropped around 5 inches of rain in east-central North Carolina, while the southwestern portion of the state picked up over 7 inches of rain from the storm. In Raleigh, a boy drowned from flood-waters caused by the storm. Also, Bill's tornado outbreak extended to parts of North Carolina, although the details of it are unknown. The cyclone produced heavy rainfall in portions of the Mid-Atlantic, with over 5 inches of rain falling in central Virginia. Also, a line of storms from Bill's remnants in Virginia produced a small amount of hail in Falls Church. Bill's tornado outbreak ended in New Jersey when an EF0 tornado briefly touched down in a marsh near the city of Goshen. The tornado remained away from the city and caused no damage, injuries, or fatalities.

Lack of Retirement

Because the damage was not extreme, the World Meteorological Organization did not retire the name Bill in the Spring of 2004. It is on the list of names to be used for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

2003 Atlantic hurricane

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_Storm_Bill_%282003%29

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