The 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season will be long remembered for the number of powerful late season storms that formed throughout the Atlantic Basin along with the devastating floods caused by Tropical Storm Allison in June. Like the previous three years before, this hurricane season got off to a slow start, but would slowly heat up as the season progressed.
In October, 2001, we had Hurricane Iris, which became the most powerful hurricane of the season to date with sustained winds as high as 145 mph before it made landfall along the central coast of Belize. There were other storms to follow such as Jerry, which faded in the Central and Eastern Caribbean at about the same time, Karen, which was a weak tropical storm that moved into the Canadian Maritimes, and then there was Lorenzo, which formed out in the Subtropical Atlantic near the Azores.
Finally, we had Hurricane Michelle, which was a powerful late season storm that brought 130 mph winds to the island of Cuba as well as heavy rains to Central America, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman. There were 14 named storms overall, 8 of which had become hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. Below is a summary of what happened.
For the fourth year in a row, the Tropical Atlantic Basin got off to a rough start, but would recover and then some. The 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season did have the costliest tropical storms on record as Tropical Storm Allison formed during the first week of June, but over the next couple months nothing much in the way of tropical activity occurred. As of Labor Day 2001, there had been only six named storms on the season.
However, the activity would pick up again much like it has been doing since 1998. Within the weeks immediately following the Labor Day Holiday, we had Hurricane Felix, which became the season's second major hurricane, Hurricane Gabrielle, which formed off the Southeast Coast and Humberto, which formed out in the Central Atlantic, and ended up near the Canadian Maritimes. Things were just heating up though, as the Atlantic would see its most powerful storm of the year.
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For the second year in a row, the most powerful hurricane of the season hit the country of Belize. This time, it was Hurricane Iris, which had 145 mph winds shortly before it made landfall in the coastal region of Central Belize. The storm caused heavy damage over a very small area since the extreme winds were only within a 15 mile radius of the eye.
As many as twenty people were killed. Many of which were on a diving expedition from Virginia. During that week, Jerry also developed in the Caribbean east of the islands, but fizzled out after it went through the islands. Several days to a week later, another disturbance formed in the Central Atlantic as Hurricane Karen became the eleventh named storm of the season.
Things then quieted down for a couple weeks before a subtropical low pressure system gained tropical characteristics near the Azores, and became Tropical Storm Lorenzo. Lorenzo would soon fizzle out, but the most threatening storm of the season was on the horizon as a disturbance was gaining momentum in the Southwestern Caribbean.
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This disturbance had been meandering about in this region and brought copious amounts of rain to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras. These areas are still reeling from the devastation caused by rainfall from deadly Hurricane Mitch in October, 1998. This disturbance became a tropical depression, and then on October 31st, the depression became Tropical Storm Michelle.
Michelle would gradually gain strength, and on Friday night, November 2nd, it had 85 mph winds. It would then rapidly deepen during the day on Saturday, November 3rd, 2001. By the late afternoon that Saturday, Michelle was a powerful hurricane with winds of 135 mph. It was very hard to tell where the storm was going to go since the upper level steering currents were sluggish. That resulted from the lack of development in a upper level disturbance near Galveston, Texas.
However, this disturbance would get its act together that Saturday evening, and it picked up the storm. Michelle, now moving rapidly, brought 124 mph sustained winds to offshore stations near the South shore of Cuba. It also brought a storm surge as high as 20 feet in that same region. While many in South Florida and the Florida Keys were worried about the dangerous situation that developed, they were spared much of Michelle's wrath as it stayed just to the south.
Michelle then rapidly moved through the Bahamas, and out to sea. Meanwhile, Noel developed on Monday, November 6th, but soon became extratropical. So, the summary of the season showed 15 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. Two of them were Category Four storms, and they made significant damage in Central America and Cuba.
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