Hurricane Georges: Diary of a Storm

Hurricane Georges: Diary of a Storm

September 15, 1998 – A tropical weather system emerges in the waters off the West African coast some 400 miles (644 km) southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. It is classified as a Tropical Depression 7.

September 16 – The system becomes more intense. It is upgraded and named Tropical Storm Georges.

September 17 – The system intensifies, becoming Hurricane Georges, the fourth hurricane of the 1998 season. It is now 1,300 miles (2092 km) east of the Lesser Antilles.

September 19 – A reconnaissance aircraft is sent to the system to measure wind speeds and atmospheric pressure. The winds are clocked at 150 mph (241 kph), atmospheric pressure at 938 millibars. Georges is now a powerful Category 4 hurricane.

September 20 – Hurricane Georges runs into unfavorable conditions. A wind shear, which is a radical shift in wind speed and direction over a very short distance, is breaking up the symmetry of the cyclone. Georges has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane and is now 585 miles (941 km) southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

September 21 – Hurricane Georges greets the day some 75 miles (121 km) east of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. It has found warmer waters and the wind shear has disappeared. The winds can now circulate unimpeded around the eye of the storm. Georges has strengthened, and at 5:30 p.m. it is upgraded to a Category 3. At 6 p.m. the eye is just off the east coast of Puerto Rico. At 7 p.m. the eye touches land in the area of Humacao / Yabucoa, along the island’s southeast coast. Many severe hurricanes over the centuries have entered here. Georges’ winds are clocked at 115 mph (185 kph). Its gusts rise up to 150 mph (241 kph). Atmospheric pressure is 967 mb. The diameter of the eye is between 20 and 25 miles (32 and 40 km) wide. The hurricane passes over the island just to the south of the Cordillera Central, the island’s central mountains. Intense thunderstorms, very heavy rains, and occasional tornadoes accompany the eye as it moves across the island at around 15 mph (24 kph). At 8 p.m. the eye is 20 miles (32 km) southwest of San Juan, where almost half of Puerto Rico’s population lives.

September 22 – At 1 a.m. the eye leaves Puerto Rico to the west-southwest of Mayagúez, Puerto Rico’s largest west coast city.

Hurricane Georges was the most destructive hurricane to strike Puerto Rico since Hurricane San Ciprian hit in 1932.