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Florida Hurricanes in 2005

The year 2005 was yet another rough one for Florida, with another round of hurricanes and tropical storms plaguing the Sunshine State. To give us a run-down on all the storms that brushed Florida -- where they started, what paths did they take and so on -- I'm pleased to present the following article by Bruce Supranowicz. There's a lot of fascinating information here for weather-watchers!

The six storms in this article are: Arlene, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Tammy and Wilma.

2005 Started With Arlene

Arlene was first detected as a tropical depression in the Northwestern Caribbean on June 8. It started moving generally northward and strengthened into a tropical storm on June 9.

Arlene moved over the western tip of Cuba and into the Southeastern Gulf of Mexico, then veered slightly to a north-northwesterly direction of movement. This motion paralleled the Florida peninsula, about 250 miles offshore. The Florida peninsula itself only received a few showers.

Arlene strengthened into a 70 MPH tropical storm late on June 10, and resumed a northerly course as it passed about 280 miles west of Cedar Key. On June 11, Arlene hit the Florida/Alabama border, bringing heavy rain and 70 MPH winds to the western panhandle of Florida, with less inclement weather further east. The tropical storm then weakened as it continued north.

Dennis the Menace

Dennis evolved out of a tropical depression which was first identified in the far eastern Caribbean late on July 4. As it moved towards the west-northwest and later, towards the northwest, it intensified steadily, first into a tropical storm and then a category 1 hurricane on July 6.

Dennis continued to strengthen thereafter, and passed between Jamaica and eastern Cuba as a category 3 hurricane late on July 7. It continued to strengthen, and reached category 4 status just hours later. At its peak, with 150 MPH sustained winds, Dennis approached the Central Cuba coast, still moving northwestward.

Hurricane Dennis plowed into the south-central coast of Cuba as a category 4 hurricane, but the rugged terrain of that country weakened the storm. Dennis exited the northwest coast of Cuba as a 90 MPH category 1 hurricane on July 9, and, while still moving northwestward, moved into the Gulf of Mexico south of the Florida Straits. The hurricane passed about 90 miles west of Key West, bringing tropical force winds and heavy squalls to much of the Florida keys.

The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico helped Dennis to strengthen, and the hurricane regained category 4 status early on July 10 while it was about 200 miles west of Tampa, Florida. Dennis then veered more towards the north-northwest as its forward motion sped up and slammed into the extreme western panhandle of Florida late on July 10. Fortunately, the hurricane started weakening before it reached the coast and arrived as a strong category 2 hurricane.

Nevertheless, it brought destructive wind and tidal surges into the western Florida panhandle, along with heavy rain, with less intense wind/rain in the eastern Florida panhandle. Dennis weakened quickly over land as it continued north-northwestward over western Alabama and eventually became just a tropical low pressure area.

Katrina - We Were Fortunate

Katrina developed out of a tropical depression which was first identified on August 23 in the central Bahamas, about 315 miles southeast of Miami. The system meandered towards the north-northwest as it strengthened, and for awhile, it appeared that it might veer north and miss the Florida coast, as many storms have done from that position.

But as Katrina moved slowly over the northern Bahamas, a strong ridge of the high pressure to the north forced it to curve towards the west. The tropical storm appeared to be heading towards the Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach area, but early on August 25, as Katrina reached minimal hurricane status, it again surprised forecasters by veering towards the southwest.

Katrina's center struck just north of Miami as an 80-MPH hurricane late on August 25. There were power outages in portions of southeastern Florida, mainly in Dade and Broward counties, and tropical storm-force winds extended as far north as the West Palm Beach area. Katrina retained hurricane status until it was ready to move off the extreme southwest coast of Florida on August 26, when it dropped down to just below hurricane force.

The storm regained hurricane status just off the southwest Florida coast and would later intensify into a rare category 5 hurricane a couple of days later over the central Gulf of Mexico. Katrina was to later cause severe damage to portions of Louisiana and Mississippi when striking their coastlines as a major hurricane on August 29.

Next Was Rita

Rita evolved from a tropical depression which formed about 150 miles north of the northern Dominican Republic coastline on September 18. Instead of moving in a more northerly direction and missing Florida, as most previous tropical cyclones have done from that position, it moved slightly north of due west as a strong high-pressure ridge to the north prevented a northward turn.

Rita became a tropical storm as it entered the South-Central Bahamas late on September 18, and, as it passed about 140 miles south of Miami on September 20, a category 1 hurricane. The hurricane bought gusty winds and a few squalls the to the South Florida mainland, then passed about 45 miles south of Key West as a category 2 hurricane that night.

The lower keys experienced hurricane-force gusts and heavy rain squalls, and the upper keys, tropical-force winds and occasional squalls. Rita moved further west into the Gulf of Mexico and, like Katrina earlier in the season, became a category 5 hurricane before slamming into the northwest coast of the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas/Louisiana border as a category 3 hurricane on September 24, causing extensive damage.

Anyone Remember Tammy?

Tammy developed out of a tropical disturbance just off Cape Canaveral on October 5. As a 40-MPH tropical storm, it moved between northwest and north-northwest and hit the extreme northeast Florida coastline near Fernandina Beach early on October 6, with 50-MPH sustained winds. The storm gradually weakened into just a tropical low after it moved into Georgia and veered more towards the west.

Go Away Wilma!

Wilma first developed in the west-Central Caribbean, about 100 miles southwest of Jamaica, on October 15 as a tropical depression. It remained essentially stationary for more than a day, then began moving slowly towards the west-northwest. It became a tropical storm on October 17 and a hurricane the following day.

What happened afterward stunned forecasters, as Wilma strengthened from a category 1 hurricane to a category 5 hurricane in just twelve hours. At one point, its pinhole eye was only a couple of miles wide and with a central pressure of 882 millibars, was the lowest ever recorded in the Atlantic basin.

Wilma moved towards the northwest, putting the tourist region near Cozumel along the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in danger. Wilma struck that region on October 22 as a category 4 hurricane and lingered over land for a day or so, causing extensive damage and flooding. It also weakened Wilma back down to a category 2 hurricane. However, as Wilma exited the extreme northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula the next day, it began to strengthen.

Wilma then turned northeastward, directly towards South Florida. The hurricane moved slowly at first, only about 10 MPH, then started to accelerate its forward motion. It strengthened to category 3 status and hit the southwest coast of Florida, just south of Naples early on October 24.

The hurricane weakened to category 2 status and retained it as its 50-mile wide eye moved northeastward at 25 MPH. The eye of the hurricane moved over the populated area of eastern Palm Beach County late that morning and many residents, unaware that they were in the eye, strolled outside, where skies were partly cloudy to cloudy and winds were only about 10 MPH. That was a mistake, as a couple of people were killed when hurricane-force winds resumed after the eye passed.

Winds of 100 MPH+ were experienced over much of south Florida, with extensive damage. Wilma moved offshore and immediately strengthened into a category 3 hurricane again as it raced northeastward. It eventually became extratropical well east of New England on October 25 as it continued to speed towards the northeast, out over the open Atlantic Ocean.

Wow -- that's some write-up! Thanks a bunch, Bruce, and you can check out more of his "storm stories" on the Articles page.

P.S. I happen to know that Bruce was affected by hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, so he writes it with personal experience.

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