Hurricane Erika (1997)

Hurricane Erika (1997)

Infobox Hurricane
Name=Hurricane Erika
Image location=Hurricane Erika 1997.gif

Lesser Antilles on September 8
Formed=September 3, 1997
Dissipated=September 20, 1997
1-min winds=110

Fatalities=2 direct
Areas=Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Azores
Hurricane season=1997 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Erika was the strongest and longest-lasting tropical cyclone in the 1997 Atlantic hurricane season. Erika developed from a tropical wave on September 3 and moved west-northwestward across the tropical Atlantic Ocean; it steadily intensified until it attained hurricane status on September 4, becoming the fifth named storm, third hurricane, and only major hurricane of the season. Erika passed a short distance to the north of the Lesser Antilles, and later turned to the north in response to an approaching trough. The hurricane quickly strengthened to reach maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) on September 8; after maintaining its peak strength for 24 hours, Erika began to weaken as it passed over cooler waters. It turned to the east, weakened to a tropical storm, and became extratropical after passing near the Azores archipelago.

The hurricane produced light rainfall and winds throughout the northern Lesser Antilles. The passage of Erika carried a cloud of volcanic ash to Antigua from the eruption of the Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat, a rare occurrence. Strong waves from the hurricane produced beach erosion and coastal flooding in northern Puerto Rico, and caused the death of two surfers. Moderate wind gusts in Puerto Rico left thousands of residents without power, and resulted in $10 million (1997 USD, $12.6 million 2006 USD) in damage in the Caribbean territory of the United States. Erika also produced gusty winds and light rain in the Azores. Erika was the only tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Ocean in the months of August and September, the first occurrence of such event in an Atlantic hurricane season since 1929.cite web|author=Lawrence|year=1997|title=September Monthly Tropical Weather Summary|publisher=National Hurricane Center|accessdate=2006-11-12|url=|format=TXT]

Meteorological history

A large tropical wave, which eventually became Erika, moved off the coast of Africa on August 31. Shortly after leaving the coast, it displayed of a large low-level circulation, though as it tracked westward, the circulation failed to contract significantly. It slowly organized, and by September 3 the convection within the circulation had sufficiently organized for the system to be classified as Tropical Depression Six, while located about 1150 miles (1850 km) east of the southernmost Lesser Antilles. The depression moved west-northwestward at approximately 20 mph (32 km/h) under the influence of a well-established subtropical ridge, and late on September 3 the system intensified into a tropical storm. At that time, the National Hurricane Center in Miami gave the storm the name of "Erika".cite web|author=Miles B. Lawrence|year=1997|title=Hurricane Erika Tropical Cyclone Report|publisher=National Hurricane Center|accessdate=2006-11-10|url=]

Erika continued to the west-northwest, and early on September 4, an eye-like feature appeared to have developed in the center of the deep convection. The feature was not an eye, though, as visible satellite imagery revealed a center partially exposed from the convection. Despite unfavorable wind shear, Erika strengthened further and intensified into a hurricane late on September 4, while located 530 miles (850 km) east-southeast of Guadeloupe. Deep convection re-developed near the center, and the hurricane slowly strengthened as it continued west-northwestward.

Hurricane Erika decelerated its forward motion as it approached the Lesser Antilles, and passed within 85 miles (135 km) of the islands as a Category 1 hurricane. An approaching trough weakened the subtropical ridge, resulting in Erika turning to the north and later to the northeast. On September 7, Erika began to quickly intensify, and the hurricane reached its peak strength of 125 mph (205 km/h) on September 8, while located about 350 miles (565 km) north of the Lesser Antilles. Erika maintained peak intensity for about 24 hours before weakening over cooler waters.

After passing about 350 miles (565 km) east of Bermuda on September 10, Erika turned to the east-northeast in response to westerly steering currents. Increased upper-level wind shear weakened the hurricane to a tropical storm on September 12. Erika continued to weaken as it turned to the east-southeast, though it maintained deep convection near the center despite unfavorable atmospheric conditions. On September 14 the storm turned to the northeast again, and re-strengthened to reach winds of convert|70|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on while located 510 miles (820 km) west-southwest of the Azores. On September 15 Erika passed near the western Azores islands, and quickly weakened as deep convection diminished. Erika became an extratropical cyclone on September 16 north of the Azores, and after executing a clockwise loop, the extratropical storm dissipated on September 19 about 230 miles (370 km) southwest of Ireland.


Lesser Antilles] Early in its path, computer models had difficulty predicting the future of Tropical Storm Erika; some brought it through the Lesser Antilles while others predicted a more northward motion.cite web||year=1997|title=Unofficial Reports from the Caribbean Sea on Hurricane Erika|accessdate=2006-11-11|url=] As a result, the government of Saint Martin first issued a tropical storm warning late on September 4. The next day, the respective governments of Antigua, Montserrat, Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Saint Barthelemy issued tropical storm warnings for their islands. When Erika's motion resulted in a path that would take it closer to the islands, all of the aforementioned islands excluding Guadeloupe upgraded the tropical storm warning to a hurricane warning. In addition, a hurricane watch was issued for the British and United States Virgin Islands, as well as Puerto Rico. In public advisories, the National Hurricane Center stated tropical storm conditions were likely to be experienced in the Azores. Early forecasts anticipated a threat to the island of Bermuda.cite web|author=Reuters|year=1997|title=Hurricane Erika Swirls out over Atlantic|accessdate=2006-11-12|url=]

The governments of the islands in the predicted path of Erika urged residents to quickly prepare for the hurricane through radio addresses.cite news|author=Associated Press|date=1997-09-06|title=Hurricane Erika heads for Caribbean Islands|accessdate=2006-11-11] Many citizens throughout the Lesser Antilles began preparing for the hurricane season months before the arrival of Hurricane Erika, such as by installing hurricane shutters, and finished preparing for the storm by purchasing food supplies. After several hurricanes affected the area in 1995 and 1996, citizens executed preparation plans greater than usual for a Category 1 hurricane. In Puerto Rico, fishermen secured their boats in preparation for the storm. Also on the island, citizens formed long lines at gas stations and purchased emergency supplies. Officials in Anguilla enacted a plan that would turn off the island's power supply if the winds exceeded 50 mph (80 km/h).Cite news|author=Syracuse Post-Standard|date=1997-09-06|title=Islanders, yachters prepare for the wrath of Hurricane Erika|accessdate=2006-11-11] The government of Guadeloupe issued a Level 2 Storm Alert for the island, which recommended all citizens to remain in their houses. Officials closed the Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport on Guadeloupe, as well. As a precaution, authorities on Saint Martin enacted a curfew for all but those in service jobs.cite web|author=Suzanne Gordon|year=1997|title=Hurricane Erika Spares Leeward Islands|publisher=Reuters|accessdate=2006-11-12|url=] A cruise ship altered its course to avoid the island of Saint Thomas.


Hurricane Erika produced strong waves throughout the Lesser Antilles, including 10 to 12 ft (3 to 3.7 m) waves in Saint Martin. There, the waves flooded roadways and damaged one building under construction near the coast. Erika's outer rainbands passed through the island, with precipitation totaling to 1.91 inches (48.6 mm). Anguilla reported winds of 35 mph (55 km/h) and some rain, and Antigua reported over 2 inches (50 mm) of rain with gusts to 32 mph (51 km/h). The passage of the hurricane resulted in low-level southwesterly winds. Just weeks after the eruption of the Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat, the storm blew a cloud of falling ash over Antigua. Officials considered closing schools on the southern portion of the island due to the ash fall, though the ash cloud turned away from the island as winds changed direction. This was the first recorded occurrence of ash fall in Antigua from Montserrat.

Winds from Hurricane Erika peaked at 37 mph (60 km/h) with a gust of 47 mph (76 km/h) in the Cyril E. King Airport on Saint Thomas. The outer rainbands produced light to moderate rainfall in the Virgin Islands, peaking at 3.28 inches (83 mm) at the University of the Virgin Islands in Saint Thomas and 1.32 inches (36 mm) in Saint John. The precipitation produced localized street flooding, while the combination of winds and rain caused power interruptions. Offshore, strong waves capsized one dinghy and broke a 50-foot (15 m) boat from its moorings.cite web|author=National Climatic Hurricane Center|accessdate=2006-11-11|url=|year=1997|title=Event Report for the Virgin Islands] On Saint Croix, the hurricane produced sustained winds of 25 mph (40 km/h) and a peak wind gust of 29 mph (46 km/h) at the Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport. Rainfall on the island was light, peaking at 0.83 inches (21 mm) at Christiansted. The wind gusts downed a few power lines, and damage was minor.cite web|author=NCDC|year=1997|title=Event Report for St. Croix|accessdate=2006-11-11|url=]

The outer rainbands of Erika passed over Puerto Rico, producing maximum sustained winds of 23 mph (37 km/h) and a peak wind gust of 42 mph (68 km/h) at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. The wind gusts snapped tree branches into power lines, leaving up to 12,000 people without power in San Juan, Guaynabo and Bayamon. Rainfall was light on the island, with Caguas reporting a peak total of 0.77 inches (20 mm). The hurricane produced swells of 10 to 12 ft (3 to 3.7 m) on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, causing beach erosion or coastal flooding. One road was closed when sections of it were flooded or washed out. The strong waves forced the evacuation of eight families in the northern portion of the island.cite web|author=National Climatic Data Center|year=1997|title=Event Report for Puerto Rico|accessdate=2006-11-11|url=] The strong waves killed two surfers in the northeastern waters of the island. Damage in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands totaled to $10 million (1997 USD, $12.6 million 2006 USD) in a preliminary estimate.cite web||year=1997|title=Erika swipes Caribbean, hits Azores|accessdate=2006-11-12|url=]

Thirty-one ships encountered Erika from September 4, when it was a tropical storm, to September 18, when it was extratropical. Two recorded hurricane force winds, with a peak wind report of convert|99|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on. The lowest recorded pressure by a ship was 1000.4 mbar (29.542 inHg) while located 105 miles (170 km) from Erika as an extratropical storm. The lowest recorded pressure while Erika was a tropical cyclone was 1000.5 mbar (29.545 inHg) while located 190 miles (305 km) from the center. While passing near the Azores, Tropical Storm Erika produced maximum sustained winds of 30 mph (48 km/h) at Lajes Field. Gusts were much stronger, with a report of 87 mph (140 km/h) in Flores. In addition, Lajes recorded a gust of 105 mph (169 km/h) from a 200 foot (61 m) tower. The storm dropped up to 2.35 inches (60 mm) of rain in Flores and produced rough seas throughout the archipelago. Damage, if any, is unknown in the Azores.

Due to the minimal damage it caused, the name Erika was not retired from the lists of tropical cyclone names. It was re-used in 2003 and is on the list for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.


ee also

*List of tropical cyclones

External links

* [ Hurricane Erika Tropical Cyclone Report]

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