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Tropical Storm Helene was the eighth named storm of the 2000 Atlantic hurricane season. Helene formed as a tropical depression while located well east of the Lesser Antilles. The depression degenerated back into a tropical wave, but then later regenerated and ultimately became Tropical Storm Helene. Helene made landfall in Florida near Fort Walton Beach early on September 22, and then moved northeast and out to sea, where Helene reached its peak intensity of 70 mph and a pressure of 986 mb out in the open Atlantic Ocean.

Helene $16,000,000 (2000 USD) in damage and killed 2 people.

Tropical Storm Helene in the Gulf of Mexico
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Formation September 15, 2000
Dissipation September 25, 2000
Highest winds 70 mph
Lowest pressure 986 mbar
Deaths 1 direct, 1 indirect
Damages None
Areas affected Florida, Southeastern United States


Storm History

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On September 10, a well-defined tropical wave exited the coast of Africa, and began heading westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly thereafter, however, the wave lost most of its convection, and showed little signs of development as it moved westward. On September 14, convection regenerated within the wave, and the next day, the National Hurricane Center designated the wave as Tropical Depression Twelve, while it was located about 470 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. However, before reconnaissance aircraft could fly into the depression, it had already lost its closed surface circulation and had degenerated back into a tropical wave. Although the environment ahead of the wave was favorable for intensification, the wave changed very little in organization as it headed generally westward through the Carribean Sea. Late on September 19, another flight by reconnaissance aircraft confirmed that another closed surface circulation developed while the wave was northwest of Grand Cayman, and thus it became a tropical depression again. The depression maintained what little organization it had as it made landfall along the western tip of Cuba on September 20. The next day, convection redeveloped over the depression, and it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Helene, while located in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

Helene moved northward and rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico, reaching winds of 70 mph for the first time, as well as reaching a minimum central pressure of 996 mb late on September 21. At this time wind shear increased over the storm, preventing Helene from becoming a hurricane. Helene lost most of its deep convection, and the heavy rainbands were displaced to the east of Helene's center of circulation. Helene rapidly weakened, even faster than it had strengthened, and went from a 70 mph tropical storm to a 40 mph tropical storm in just 12 hours. Around 7:00 AM CDT on September 22, Helene made landfall near Fort Walton Beach, Florida as a minimal tropical storm, only five days after Hurricane Gordon made landfall in the same general area. Originally, it was thought that two tropical storms hit the state within a 12-hour period in the 1906 season, although after a more recent analysis, the suspected tropical storm was downgraded to a tropical depression. After landfall, Helene weakened to a tropical depression while it moved northeast over the Southeastern United States. Despite crossing a large stretch of land, Helene did not dissipate, and it re-strengthened over North Carolina to a tropical storm.

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Helene shortly after landfall.

Operationally, Helene was no longer considered a tropical cyclone and instead was treated as a low-pressure area while it passed over North Carolina. Once over the Atlantic, the NHC stated that advisories could be reinitiated because Helene was reacquiring tropical characteristics, but moved over colder waters before they could do so. Later on, it was discovered that Helene retained a closed surface circulation and remained a tropical storm for far longer than was originally thought. Helene re-emerged into the Atlantic Ocean as a relatively compact storm. As it moved northeast and away from the East Coast of the United States, it reached a peak of 70 mph winds and a minimum central pressure of 986 mb. On September 25, Helene merged with a cold front over the North Atlantic.

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Helene at peak intensity.

Preparations

18 shelters, including 2 with for people or families with special needs, were opened throughout the following counties in the Florida Panhandle: Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla, Liberty, and Gadsen. At Tallahassee's airport, flights were cancelled and state government offices in the city were closed. City buses stopped running during the storm but were back on schedule by early afternoon.

Impact

Helene caused a total of $16,000,000 (2000 USD) in damage. The highest rainfall total reported from Helene was 10.32 inches in Apalachicola. Helene killed one person directly, and one person indirectly. Six injuries were also attributed to the storm.

Florida

Helene dropped nearly 8 inches of rain in Florida, which caused some minorflooding and power outages, affecting approximately 5,000 people in the city of Tallahassee, and over 10 inches of rain fell in Apalachicola. Also, Helene spawned six or more tornadoes in between the two cities, but since they crossed sparsely populated areas of the cities, they caused no significant damage.

Also, six homes in Franklin, Leon, and Wakulla counties in Florida were destroyed by Helene, and 17 homes sustained major damage. Finally, another 65 homes took some minor damage from Helene. The Gulf County Division of Emergency Management estimated there was between $100,000 and $300,000 (2000 USD) in road damage and beach erosion on the part of a peninsula called Cape San Blas.

Carolinas

In South Carolina, Helene spawned an F2 tornado that ripped through the city of Martin on September 23, which directly killed a man in a trailer while he slept. It also injured six other people in adjacent homes. The highest rainfall reported in the state of South Carolina was 9.06 inches. In addition, flash flooding also occured in Aiken County. Downed trees were blocking Highway 125 in Allendale County, and the county emergency management office reported major damage to five or six mobile homes. Also, reports from the local weather service stated that Highway 47 was flooded near Elgin and became too dangerous to drive on. Also, the weather service stated that Virginia Avenue was washed out in the city of Barnwell. In Berkeley County, one indirect death occured from a flood-related traffic accident, as a middle-aged woman lost control of her car when she hit a patch of water on the road and the car hit a pine tree.

In North Carolina, the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 17 was flooded from Helene's heavy rainfall and traffic was detoured south of Shallotte. In addition, there were also a few minor washouts on back roads and street flooding in some towns.

Lack of Retirement

Because damage was not extreme, the name Helene was not retired in the Spring of 2001 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was used again during the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, and is on the list of names to be used for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

2000 Atlantic hurricane season

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_Storm_Helene_%282000%29

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