Hurricane Iris (1995)

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Hurricane Iris
Category 2 hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)

Iris 2 September 1995.jpg

Hurricane Iris about a day after reaching peak intensity, well to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles, on September 2
Formed August 22, 1995
Dissipated September 7, 1995
( Extratropical after September 4)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:110 mph (175 km/h)
Lowest pressure 965 mbar (hPa); 28.5 inHg
Fatalities 5 direct
Damage Unknown
Areas affected Leeward Islands, Western Europe
Part of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Iris was the first of three tropical cyclones to affect the Lesser Antilles in a three-week period, preceding the more destructive hurricanes Luis and Marilyn. The ninth named storm and fifth hurricane of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season, Iris developed from a tropical wave to the east of the Lesser Antilles on August 22 and attained hurricane status within 30 hours. The hurricane weakened to a tropical storm before crossing the islands of the eastern Caribbean from August 26 through August 28. During that time, Iris became one of four active tropical storms in the Atlantic basin. Earlier it had interacted with Hurricane Humberto, and beginning on August 30, Iris interacted with Tropical Storm Karen. Iris re-intensified into a hurricane and attained peak sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h) while moving slowly across the central Atlantic. The hurricane accelerated to the north and absorbed a dissipating Karen on September 3. Iris weakened to a tropical storm and became extratropical on September 4, though its remnants reattained hurricane-force winds before affecting western Europe on September 7.

Lesser Antilles Archipelago in the Southeast Caribbean

The Lesser Antilles is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most form a long, partly volcanic island arc between the Greater Antilles to the north-west and the continent of South America. The islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Together, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles. When combined with the Lucayan Archipelago, all three are known as the West Indies.

Hurricane Luis Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1995

Hurricane Luis was a long-lived, powerful and a very destructive Cape Verde hurricane, as well as one of the strongest and most notable hurricanes of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (220 km/h) – which would nearly be tied with Opal later that year but surpassed it by minimum pressure. Luis was also the strongest hurricane to make landfall, and the third-most intense hurricane recorded during the extremely active season. It was the twelfth tropical storm, sixth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the season. At one point, the storm was one of four simultaneous tropical systems in the Atlantic basin, along with Humberto, Iris, and Karen. The storm lasted for 14 days as a tropical storm between late August and mid-September.

Hurricane Marilyn Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1995

Hurricane Marilyn was the most powerful hurricane to strike the Virgin Islands since Hurricane Hugo of 1989, and the third such tropical cyclone in roughly a two-week time span to strike or impact the Leeward Islands, the others being Hurricane Iris and the much more powerful and destructive Hurricane Luis. The thirteenth named storm, seventh hurricane and third major hurricane of the extremely active 1995 Atlantic hurricane season, Marilyn formed on September 12 as a tropical depression from a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on September 7. After formation, the storm quickly became a tropical storm, and steadily intensified into a hurricane by the time it struck the Lesser Antilles on September 14 at Category 1 strength. Entering the northeastern Caribbean Sea, rapid intensification ensued and it peaked on September 16 north of Puerto Rico as a Category 3 hurricane shortly after it had impacted the U.S. Virgin Islands. A Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance flight reported hail, which is unusual for tropical cyclones. After heading north past Bermuda, Marilyn weakened and became extratropical on September 22. The remnant circulation wandered the Atlantic Ocean from September 23 – October 1, just south of Nova Scotia.


As a tropical storm, Iris produced heavy rainfall across much of the Leeward Islands. In the southern Lesser Antilles, high waves caused coastal flooding in Trinidad, while in Martinique further north, significant amounts of precipitation led to flooding and landslides. The threat from the hurricane halted airplane evacuations on Montserrat, which was being threatened by the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano. There were five deaths in association with Irisfour in Martinique, and one in Guadeloupe.

Leeward Islands group of islands in the West Indies

The Leeward Islands are a group of islands situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Starting with the Virgin Islands east of Puerto Rico, they extend southeast to Guadeloupe and its dependencies. In English, the term Leeward Islands refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. The more southerly part of this chain, starting with Dominica, is called the Windward Islands. Dominica was originally considered part of the Leeward Islands, but was transferred from the British Leeward Islands to the British Windward Islands in 1940.

Trinidad The larger of the two major islands which make up the nation of Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The island lies 11 km (6.8 mi) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela and sits on the continental shelf of South America. Though geographically part of the South American continent, from a socio-economic standpoint it is often referred to as the southernmost island in the Caribbean. With an area of 4,768 km2 (1,841 sq mi), it is also the fifth largest in the West Indies.

Martinique Overseas region and department in France

Martinique is an insular region of France located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of 1,128 square kilometres (436 sq mi) and a population of 376,480 inhabitants as of January 2016. Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. One of the Windward Islands, it is directly north of Saint Lucia, southeast of Greater Antilles, northwest of Barbados, and south of Dominica.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale Iris 1995 track.png
Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

A tropical wave exited western Africa on August 16, with a circulation emerging just south of Dakar, Senegal. It was the first of four consecutive waves that would later develop into tropical cyclones. As the system moved westward, thunderstorms diminished on August 18, before they gradually redeveloped. At around 1200  UTC, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) classified the system as Tropical Depression Ten about 690 mi (1,110 km) east of the Lesser Antilles. [1] Around that time, the depression had a well-organized area of convection and evident circulation, as confirmed by a nearby ship. [2] Within six hours of developing, the depression had intensified into a tropical storm. [1] Initially, tropical cyclone forecast models had difficulty predicting the future of the storm, due to uncertain interaction between it and Tropical Storm Humberto to its northeast. [3] In real-time, the NHC upgraded the depression to Tropical Storm Iris at 1500 UTC on August 23, [4] or about 21 hours later than assessed in post-analysis. The intensity was based on satellite intensity estimates. [1] At that time, the storm had a ragged central dense overcast a uniformly circular area of thunderstormsas well as rainbands to the north and south. [4] A hurricane hunters flight late on August 23 indicated that Iris was significantly stronger, reporting 10second sustained winds of 106 mph (170 km/h) at flight-level. [1] Based on the reading, it is estimated Iris attained hurricane status around 1800 UTC that day, or about three hours after it was named. [1] [4]

Tropical wave type of atmospheric trough

Tropical waves, easterly waves, or tropical easterly waves, also known as African easterly waves in the Atlantic region, are a type of atmospheric trough, an elongated area of relatively low air pressure, oriented north to south, which moves from east to west across the tropics, causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms. West-moving waves can also form from the tail end of frontal zones in the subtropics and tropics, and may be referred to as easterly waves, but these waves are not properly called tropical waves; they are a form of inverted trough sharing many characteristics with fully tropical waves. All tropical waves form in the easterly flow along the equatorward side of the subtropical ridge or belt of high pressure which lies north and south of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Tropical waves are generally carried westward by the prevailing easterly winds along the tropics and subtropics near the equator. They can lead to the formation of tropical cyclones in the north Atlantic and northeastern Pacific basins. A tropical wave study is aided by Hovmöller diagrams, a graph of meteorological data.

Africa The second largest and second most-populous continent, mostly in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres

Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Atmospheric circulation The large-scale movement of air, a process which distributes thermal energy about the Earths surface

Atmospheric circulation is the large-scale movement of air, and together with ocean circulation is the means by which thermal energy is redistributed on the surface of the Earth.

After Iris strengthened into a hurricane, it turned to the west-southwest due to interaction with Hurricane Humberto. An upper-level low north of Puerto Rico increased wind shear over the hurricane, which dislocated the center from the deep convection. As a result, Iris weakened to tropical storm status on August 24 after being a hurricane for about 24 hours. [1] As the storm approached the Lesser Antilles, the thunderstorms decreased markedly and the cloud pattern became disorganized. [5] As late as August 25, there was uncertainty whether Iris would continue toward the islands or turn to the north. [6] A new circulation became the dominant center as the storm continued westward, and Iris brushed Saint Lucia early on August 26. An approaching trough turned the storm to the northwest, bringing it near most of the Lesser Antilles. Early on August 27, Iris weakened to an intensity of 40 mph (64 km/h), although it immediately began restrengthening. Later that day, the center made landfall on Montserrat, Anguilla, and Barbuda with winds of over 60 mph (95 km/h). [1] By that time, an eye began reforming, [7] and the structure became better organized as wind shear decreased. [8]

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.

Wind shear

Wind shear, sometimes referred to as wind gradient, is a difference in wind speed or direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere. Atmospheric wind shear is normally described as either vertical or horizontal wind shear. Vertical wind shear is a change in wind speed or direction with change in altitude. Horizontal wind shear is a change in wind speed with change in lateral position for a given altitude.

Saint Lucia country in the Caribbean

Saint Lucia is a sovereign island country in the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. The island was previously called Iyonola, the name given to the island by the native Amerindians and later, Hewanorra, the name given by the native Caribs. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 617 km2 and reported a population of 165,595 in the 2010 census. Its capital is Castries.

A satellite image of the Atlantic Ocean on August 24 including Humberto, Iris, Jerry, and two waves that would ultimately become Karen and Luis 1995 Parade of Storms.png
A satellite image of the Atlantic Ocean on August 24 including Humberto, Iris, Jerry, and two waves that would ultimately become Karen and Luis

On August 28, Iris moved away from the Lesser Antilles, and at 1800 UTC re-attained hurricane status as it began a steady motion to the north-northwest. [1] By that time, there was uncertainty in its future track due to the possible interactions among Iris, Humberto to the northeast, Tropical Storm Karen to the southeast, and the remnants of Tropical Storm Jerry to the west. [9] In addition, after Tropical Storm Luis formed on August 27, there were four active tropical cyclones in the Atlantic. [10] A few days later, there were three simultaneous hurricanes, which is a rare event, when Luis attained hurricane status. [11] On August 30, Iris turned to the northeast while it began interacting directly with Tropical Storm Karen. Over the next few days, the smaller tropical storm moved around the larger circulation of Iris, potentially causing the hurricane to move erratically. [1] Iris' intensity did not change significantly during that time, and it maintained strong outflow but a weak eyewall. An eastward-moving trough bypassed the storm to the north, causing the motion to become nearly stationary. [12] A building ridge to the northeast caused Iris to turn to a northwest drift on September 1. By that time, the eye had become distinct and well-organized, [13] and at 0600 UTC that day, Iris attained peak winds of 110 mph (175 km/h) to the southeast of Bermuda. [1]

Tropical Storm Jerry (1995) Atlantic tropical storm in 1995

Tropical Storm Jerry was a tropical storm that caused severe flooding throughout the southeast United States in August of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season. Jerry, the tenth tropical storm of the season, formed from a tropical wave that moved off the African coast in early August, which organized into a tropical depression and tropical storm between the Bahamas and Florida later in the month, before striking Florida in the latter part of the month. Its remnant circulation persisted until five days after landfall. The rainfall it produced, amounting to over 12 inches (300 mm) in several locations across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, was responsible for $40 million (2005 USD) in damage and 6 deaths. At the time, Jerry was the earliest tenth storm to form in a season on record, until Jose in the 2005 season overtook it. Tropical Storm Jerry was also the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in South Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Outflow (meteorology) air that flows outwards from a storm system

Outflow, in meteorology, is air that flows outwards from a storm system. It is associated with ridging, or anticyclonic flow. In the low levels of the troposphere, outflow radiates from thunderstorms in the form of a wedge of rain-cooled air, which is visible as a thin rope-like cloud on weather satellite imagery or a fine line on weather radar imagery. Low-level outflow boundaries can disrupt the center of small tropical cyclones. However, outflow aloft is essential for the strengthening of a tropical cyclone. If this outflow is undercut, the tropical cyclone weakens. If two tropical cyclones are in proximity, the upper level outflow from the system to the west can limit the development of the system to the east.

After reaching peak intensity, the hurricane began weakening due to increasing shear and cooler waters. [1] An approaching trough turned Iris to the north, [14] and early on September 3, the hurricane passed about 350 mi (560 km) east of Bermuda. [15] That day, Iris absorbed the dissipating Tropical Depression Karen. [1] It accelerated to the northeast as it lost tropical characteristics, and after weakening to a tropical storm, Iris transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on September 4 to the southeast of Newfoundland. The remnants of Iris turned to the east, [1] moving in tandem with an extratropical storm to its north. [16] On September 5, the barometric pressure dropped by more than 24 millibars (0.71 inHg), which qualified as being classified as a meteorological bomb. [16] The next day, the winds strengthened to hurricane-status, [1] and the storm maintained a track to the east due to a ridge weakening to the north. The pressure reached a minimum of 957 mb (28.3 inHg) early on September 7, lower than when Iris was tropical. [16] That day, the storm weakened as it entered the English Channel, and the extratropical remnants continued across western Europe. [1]

Extratropical cyclone type of cyclone

Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude cyclones or wave cyclones, are low-pressure areas which, along with the anticyclones of high-pressure areas, drive the weather over much of the Earth. Extratropical cyclones are capable of producing anything from cloudiness and mild showers to heavy gales, thunderstorms, blizzards, and tornadoes. These types of cyclones are defined as large scale (synoptic) low pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth. In contrast with tropical cyclones, extratropical cyclones produce rapid changes in temperature and dew point along broad lines, called weather fronts, about the center of the cyclone.

Newfoundland (island) Island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Newfoundland is a large Canadian island off the east coast of the North American mainland, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has 29 percent of the province's land area. The island is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland's nearest neighbour is the French overseas community of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

Atmospheric pressure, sometimes also called barometric pressure, is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. The standard atmosphere is a unit of pressure defined as 1013.25 mbar (101325 Pa), equivalent to 760 mmHg (torr), 29.9212 inches Hg, or 14.696 psi. The atm unit is roughly equivalent to the mean sea-level atmospheric pressure on Earth, that is, the Earth's atmospheric pressure at sea level is approximately 1 atm.

Preparations and impact

Weather radar image of Hurricane Iris on August 29 Radar image of Hurricane Iris 1995.jpg
Weather radar image of Hurricane Iris on August 29

Before Iris moved through the Lesser Antilles, tropical storm watches, and later warnings, were issued from Barbados through the British Virgin Islands. The storm produced tropical storm force winds across the eastern Caribbean, although the primary meteorological event occurred from heavy rainfall. [1] Flooding prompted evacuations in communities in Saint Lucia, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. [17] Iris was the first of three storms in a three-week period to affect the region, preceding the more destructive hurricanes Luis and Marilyn. [18]

In western Trinidad, a feeder produced winds of 37 mph (60 km/h) along the Gulf of Paria. The winds increased waves that caused coastal flooding and some damage to boats. [19] On Martinique, Iris produced gusts of 56 mph (90 km/h), with torrential rainfall occurring on the island. A station in Les Trois-Îlets recorded 1.89 in (48 mm) in a 30 minute period, and the highest total on the island was 17.72 in (450 mm) at Ducos. The rains caused mudslides that killed four people, [1] including two after a house was swept off a cliff in Le Vauclin. Flooding was reported across coastal areas of Martinique, and heavy damage was reported in the southern city of Le Vauclin. [20] To the north of Martinique, winds reached 43 mph (69 km/h) on Dominica. [1] While the storm passed Guadeloupe, it produced sustained winds of 45 mph (72 km/h), with gusts to 65 mph (105 km/h) on La Désirade. [21] There was one death on the island after a person drowned in a storm-flooded river. [22] To the northwest, the hurricane moved over Montserrat, [1] causing additional problems on the island just weeks after the Soufrière Hills volcano began erupting. [23] Officials on the island closed the primary airport due to the storm, which prevented residents from evacuating from the island from the volcano threat. [24] Further north, Iris dropped 6 in (150 mm) of rain on Antigua, which destroyed banana trees and caused flooding in low-lying areas. [1]

Due to uncertainties in Iris' track, the government of Bermuda issued a tropical storm watch on September 1. This was downgraded on September 3 after the hurricane bypassed the island. [1] [25] Later, after Iris became extratropical, the storm produced winds of 45 mph (72 km/h) at La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast of France. [16]

See also

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Tropical Storm Dorothy was the deadliest tropical cyclone of the 1970 Atlantic hurricane season. The fourth named storm and fifth tropical storm or hurricane of the season, Dorothy developed on August 17 from a tropical wave to the east of the Lesser Antilles. It tracked west-northwestward throughout its entire duration, and despite forecasts of attaining hurricane status, Dorothy reached peak winds of 70 mph (110 km/) – slightly below hurricane status. The storm struck Martinique on August 20, and subsequently began a gradual weakening trend in the Caribbean Sea. On August 23, Dorothy dissipated south of Hispaniola.

Meteorological history of Hurricane Luis

The meteorological history of Hurricane Luis spanned sixteen days between August 27 to September 11, 1995. The storm originated from an area of low pressure associated with a tropical wave on August 26. The following day, the low became sufficiently organized to be classified as a tropical depression, while tracking general westward. By August 29, the depression intensified into a tropical storm and was given the name Luis by the National Hurricane Center. Luis attained hurricane status the following day as an eye began to develop. On September 1 the cyclone intensified into a major hurricane—a storm with winds of 111 mph (178 km/h) or higher—and further strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane later that day.


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