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Atlantic Hurricane Season of 2004

Jack Beven and James Franklin, National Hurricane Center/Tropical Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS Miami, FL

Introduction

The 2004 Atlantic hurricane season was among the most devastating on record. The year's storms claimed over 3,100 lives, the second largest toll in three decades; 61 of these occurred in the United States. The United States suffered a record $44 billion in property damage from five hurricane landfalls (Charley, Frances, Gaston, Ivan, and Jeanne), and the eyewall crossing of a sixth (Alex). In addition, Bonnie, Hermine, and Matthew made landfall in the United States as tropical storms. Florida was battered by Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Several islands of the Caribbean were also hard hit by Charley, Ivan, and Jeanne, particularly Grenada, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cuba, and Hispaniola. Additionally, the Bahamas were hit hard by Frances and Jeanne.

Fifteen named storms developed in 2004, including Nicole, a subtropical storm. Nine became hurricanes and six became major hurricanes. One additional tropical depression did not reach storm strength. These totals are considerably above the long-term (1944-2003) means of 10.2 named storms, 6.0 hurricanes, and 2.6 major hurricanes. August alone saw the formation of eight tropical storms, a new record for that month. The season also featured several intense and long-lived hurricanes. Ivan, a category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, reached a minimum pressure of 910 hPa, a value surpassed by only five other tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin since 1851. In addition, Ivan was a major hurricane for a total of 10 days, a new record for a single storm since the most reliable records began in 1944.

Individual Storms

The vital statistics of the named storms of 2004 are given in Table 1, while the tracks are shown in Figure 1. The track of the tropical depression is shown in Figure 2. In the cyclone summaries given below, all dates are based on Universal Coordinated Time, although local time is implied with expressions such as "afternoon," "mid-day," etc.

Figure 1 - Click to Enlarge

Figure 1. Tracks of 2004 Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes

Figure 2 - Click to Enlarge

Figure 2. Track of Tropical Depression Ten, 7-9 September 2004.


Name Classa Datesb Maximum wind (kts.) Minimum
pressure
(hPa)
Direct deaths U.S. Damage
($ millions)
Alex H 31 Jul-6 Aug 105 957 1 5
Bonnie TS 3-13 Aug 55 1001 3 minorc
Charley H 9-14 Aug 130 941 15 14000
Danielle H 13-21 Aug 95 964    
Earl TS 13-15 Aug 45 1009    
Frances H 25 Aug-8 Sep 125 935 8 8900
Gaston H 27 Aug-1 Sep 65 985 8 130
Hermine TS 27-31 Aug 50 1002    
Ivan H 2-24 Sep 145 910 93 14200
Jeanne H 13-28 Sep 105 950 3000+ 6900
Karl H 16-24 Sep 125 938    
Lisa H 19 Sep-3 Oct 65 987    
Matthew TS 8-10 Oct 40 997   minorc
Nicole ST 10-11 Oct 45 986    
Otto TS 29 Nov-3 Dec 45 995    

Table 1. 2004 Atlantic Tropical/Subtropical Storms and Hurricanes

a Tropical (TS) or subtropical storm (ST): wind speed 34-63 kts. Hurricane (H): wind speed 64 kts or higher.
b Dates begin at 0000 UTC and include tropical and subtropical depression stages but exclude the extratropical stage.
c Only minor damage was reported, but the extent of the damage was not quantified.

Hurricane Alex

Alex developed out of a broad area of low pressure that formed near the central Bahamas on 30 July. Associated thunderstorm activity gradually became better organized and the system became a tropical depression on 31 July about 175 nmi off the northeastern Florida coast. Drifting erratically, the depression strengthened to a tropical storm the following day when northeasterly shear over the cyclone decreased. Alex started to move northeastward early on 2 August, slowly approaching the coastline of the Carolinas over the next 36 hours. Alex strengthened, becoming a hurricane on 3 August when it was centered about 65 nmi south-southeast of Cape Fear. Aided by warm Gulf Stream waters and light shear, Alex continued to strengthen during the day as it neared the North Carolina Outer Banks. Alex made its closest approach to land near midday, with its center located about 9 nmi southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, while the western eyewall of the hurricane raked the Outer Banks with sustained category 1 hurricane force winds. During this close approach the hurricane's category 2 winds remained just offshore. After passing the Outer Banks, Alex accelerated into the open Atlantic, becoming a major hurricane on 5 August about 385 nmi south-southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia with maximum winds estimated at 105 kts. Only Hurricane Ellen of 1973 attained major hurricane status at a higher latitude. Alex then proceeded to weaken over colder waters and became extratropical on 6 August.

Shipping avoided the core of Alex. Selected ship reports from the outer circulation are included in Table 2. The most significant observation was from the Charles Island (C6JT), which reported winds of 50 kts at 0000 UTC 4 August. On the coast, sustained winds of 67 kts with a gust to 91 kts were reported at Hatteras Village, North Carolina at 1814 UTC 3 August. It should be noted that the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration (NOAA) Buoy 41025 near Diamond Shoals, North Carolina broke loose from its moorings as the core of Alex passed over it.

Date/Time
(UTC)
Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed
(kts)
Pressure (hPa)
02 / 1200 Buoy 30408 32.5 78.7 010 / 37 1003.0
03 / 0000 Buoy 30408 32.5 78.7 010 / 37 1003.0
04 / 0000 Charles Island 33.0 72.3 180 / 50 1010.0
04 / 1800 Enterprise 36.0 67.9 240 / 40 1004.1
04 / 2100 Enterprise 36.4 68.3 240 / 40 1003.5
05 / 1200 OOCL Fortune 35.7 59.9 220 / 36 1012.6
05 / 1500 Sealand Developer 39.3 55.9 210 / 40 1015.8
05 / 1800 Sealand Developer 39.3 56.5 230 / 35 1007.1
05 / 1800 Zim Pacific 39.7 48.3 200 / 37 1014.0
05 / 2100 Choyang Phoenix 37.7 56.5 230 / 35 1011.0
06 / 1200 Hansa India 43.0 42.3 240 / 40 1010.5

Table 2. Selected ship and drifting buoy reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Hurricane Alex, 31 July-6 August.

Tropical Storm Bonnie

Bonnie developed from a tropical wave, becoming a tropical depression on 3 August about 360 nmi east of Barbados in the Lesser Antilles. The depression moved rapidly westward and did not maintain a closed surface circulation. The system degenerated to an open wave the next day in the eastern Caribbean Sea, but a depression redeveloped from it four days later about 100 nmi southeast of the western tip of Cuba. The depression moved west-northwestward and became a tropical storm near the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula the next day. Bonnie moved into the central Gulf of Mexico and then turned northeastward on 11 August, reaching its maximum intensity of 55 kts later that day. Strong southwesterly wind shear then became established over the cyclone, causing weakening. Bonnie made landfall just south of Apalachicola, Florida, during the afternoon of 12 August with maximum sustained winds of 40 kts winds. The cyclone weakened to a tropical depression over land and moved northeastward across eastern Georgia and the Carolinas. Bonnie degenerated to a weak area of low pressure near Cape Cod on 14 August.

The strongest marine winds reported in Bonnie were from NOAA buoy 42001, which reported sustained winds of 51 kts with a gust to 66 kts at 1440 UTC 11 August. Two ships also reported tropical-storm force winds. The Celebration (H3GQ) reported winds of 40 kts at 1800 UTC 10 August, while with the Schackenborg (ZCIH7) reported sustained winds of 37 kts at 0900 UTC that same day.

Bonnie had little impact on the Florida coast. However, it caused 30 tornadoes over the southeastern United States, one of which caused three deaths in North Carolina.

Hurricane Charley

Charley originated from a tropical wave, developing into a tropical depression on 9 August about 100 nmi south-southeast of Barbados. The depression strengthened within a low-shear environment to a tropical storm early the next day in the eastern Caribbean, and became a hurricane on 11 August just south of Jamaica. Charley's center passed about 15 miles northeast of Grand Cayman as the hurricane reached category 2 strength on 12 August. Charley turned to the north-northwest and continued to strengthen, making landfall in western Cuba as a category 3 hurricane with 105 kts maximum winds. Charley weakened slightly after its passage over western Cuba; its maximum winds were about 95 kts when the center reached the Dry Tortugas around 8 am EDT on 13 August.

Figure 3 GOES-12 Visible Image of 
Hurricane Charley - Click to Enlarge

Figure 3. GOES-12 visible image of Hurricane Charley at 1945 UTC 13 August 2004. Image courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, CA

Charley then came under the influence of an unseasonably strong mid-tropospheric trough that covered the east-central United States and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane turned north-northeastward and accelerated toward the southwest coast of Florida, intensifying rapidly as it did so. Reports from Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Charley's central pressure fell from 964 hPa to 941 hPa in the last 4.5 hours before landfall near Captiva Island, Florida, with maximum sustained winds increasing to 130 kts-a category 4 hurricane (Figure 3). The center of the unusually small hurricane then crossed the Florida peninsula, passing near Punta Gorda, Kissimmee, and Orlando. Charley was still a hurricane around midnight 14 August when its center cleared the northeastern coast of Florida near Daytona Beach. After moving into the Atlantic, Charley came ashore again near Cape Romain, South Carolina near midday on 14 August with maximum sustained winds near 70 kts. The center then moved just offshore before making a final landfall at North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with maximum sustained winds near 65 kts. Charley weakened to a tropical storm over southeastern North Carolina and became extratropical on 15 August as it moved back into the Atlantic near Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Several ships encountered Charley (Table 3), but none were hit by the small, but intense, inner core of the hurricane. The highest winds were from the Edyth L (C6YC), which reported 55 kts at 0900 UTC 13 August. Additionally, NOAA buoy 41004 reported sustained winds of 43 kts with a gust to 64 kts at 1250 UTC 14 August. Among the various coastlines affected by Charley, Playa Baracoa, Cuba reported sustained winds of 103 kts with a gust to 130 kts at 0530 UTC 13 August. Charley destroyed the NOAA Coastal Marine Automated Network (C-MAN) station at Dry Tortugas, Florida, before it could report the worst observed conditions. Many stations along the storm track across the Florida Peninsula were damaged and did not report the strongest winds.

Date/Time
(UTC)
Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed
(kts)
Pressure (mb)
10 / 2100 Name Unknown
(WCZ523)
16.1 70.2 110 / 47 1010.0
11 / 0100 Buoy 41545 22.1 71.1 NA / 39 1018.7
13 / 0900 Edyth L 23.4 82.0 160 / 55 1008.0
14 / 0600 Sheila McDevitt
(WDA406)
29.1 77.4 130 / 35 1018.0
14 / 1200 Sheila McDevitt
(WDA406)
28.9 78.6 150 / 35 1017.1
14 / 1500 Lykes Navigator 31.7 77.6 180 / 38 1018.3
15 / 0300 APL Egypt (A8BZ6) 37.0 74.6 220 / 42 1017.0

Table 3. Selected ship and drifting buoy reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Hurricane Charley, 9-14 August 2004.

The total U. S. damage is estimated to be near $14 billion, making Charley the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Charley was directly responsible for ten deaths in the United States. There were also four deaths in Cuba and one in Jamaica.

Hurricane Danielle

A vigorous westward-moving tropical wave moved across the west coast of Africa early on 12 August, and spawned a tropical depression on 13 August about 450 nmi southeast of the Cape Verde Islands. The cyclone strengthened quickly, becoming a tropical storm on 14 August and a hurricane the next day. Danielle spent its lifetime over the open waters of the central Atlantic, reaching a peak intensity of 95 kts on 16 August before weakening and ultimately degenerating into a non-convective remnant low pressure system on 21 August.

There were no ship or land reports of tropical-storm force or greater winds from Danielle.

Tropical Storm Earl

Earl was a short-lived tropical storm that formed from a tropical wave on 13 August about 1,000 nmi east of the Windward Islands. It moved quickly westward and became a tropical storm the next day. Earl crossed the Windward Islands on 15 August as it reached its estimated peak intensity of 45 kts. It then weakened rapidly, degenerating to an open tropical wave later that day over the eastern Caribbean Sea.

There were no ship reports of winds of tropical-storm force associated with Earl while it was a tropical cyclone. After Earl degenerated to an open wave, however, two ships reported tropical storm force winds associated with the fast-moving wave over the central Caribbean Sea. The Buffalo Soldier (WWXB) reported 35 kts east winds on 17 August just north of Colombia, while ship Maersk Newark (A8CF2) reported 37 kts east winds on 16 and 17 August just south of Haiti. There were no reports of tropical-storm force winds from the Windward Islands due to Earl, and only minor damage was reported there.

Hurricane Frances

Figure 4 GOES-12 Visible Image of 
Hurricane Frances

Figure 4. GOES-12 visible image of Hurricane Frances at 1745 UTC 31 August 2004. Image courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, CA

Frances developed from a tropical wave, becoming a tropical depression on 25 August 655 nmi west-southwest of the southern Cape Verde Islands, a tropical storm later that day, and a hurricane the following day. Frances moved generally west-northwestward for the next several days, passing north of the Leeward Islands on 31 August (Figure 4) and just north of the Turks and Caicos Islands on 2 September. During this time, maximum sustained winds reached 125 kts (category 4) on two occasions, with a reconnaissance aircraft measuring a minimum central pressure of 935 hPa. Westerly wind shear then caused Frances to weaken to a category 2 hurricane by the time it passed over the northwestern Bahamas on 4 September. The hurricane made landfall near Stuart, Florida just after midnight on 5 September with 90 kts (category 2) maximum winds. Frances gradually weakened as it moved slowly across the Florida peninsula, and became a tropical storm just before emerging into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico early on 6 September. Frances made a final landfall in the Florida Big Bend region that afternoon as a tropical storm. It subsequently weakened over the southeastern United States and became extratropical over West Virginia on 9 September.

Shipping mostly avoided Frances as it crossed the Atlantic, although some ships encountered the outer part of the large circulation (Table 4). The highest winds reported were 43 kts from ship Mariner of the Seas (C6FV9) at 1200 UTC 5 September. Two drifting buoys reported sustained winds of 78 kts, although the reliability of these reports is uncertain. Elsewhere, Eleuthera in the Bahamas reported sustained winds of 87 kts at 1000 UTC 3 September, while Port Mayaca, Florida reported sustained winds of 74 kts at 0500 UTC 5 September.

Date/Time (UTC) Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed (kts) Pressure (hPa)
01 / 0700 Buoy 41544 23.0 66.7 090 / 37 1010.4
01 / 1600 Buoy 41544 23.1 66.7 090 / 41 1015.2
01 / 1601 Buoy 41927 23.6 70.1 080 / 93 1010.9
02 / 0000 Buoy 41543 24.0 70.7 100 / 39 1008.1
02 / 0000 Buoy 41539 24.4 69.1 090 / 35 1012.9
02 / 0000 Buoy 41545 24.4 70.4 090 / 39 1011.0
02 / 0307 Buoy 41922 22.2 71.9 NA / 35 955.2
02 / 0400 Buoy 41543 24.1 70.7 120 / 49 1009.7
02 / 0600 Anke-Angela 26.9 72.1 090 / 36 1016.0
02 / 0700 Buoy 41545 24.4 70.4 110 / 37 1010.8
02 / 0727 Buoy 41925 22.9 71.7 130 / 70 989.3
02 / 0906 Buoy 41934 24.6 72.0 NA / 78 N/A
02 / 0910 Buoy 41939 22.2 71.2 NA / 52 N/A
02 / 1800 Buoy 41542 27.6 69.6 NA / 58 1016.0
02 / 1841 Buoy 41927 23.6 70.1 NA / 41 N/A
03 / 0243 Buoy 41926 23.1 69.1 140 / 35 1014.6
03 / 0700 Buoy 41541 24.6 76.6 320 / 49 986.7
03 / 0700 Buoy 41542 27.6 69.6 130 / 51 1015.2
03 / 1800 Buoy 41541 24.5 76.4 200 / 58 999.0
03 / 2000 Buoy 41540 27.9 78.6 NA / 78 1009.0
04 / 0227 Buoy 41923 24.1 71.4 NA / 49 1013.8
04 / 1900 Buoy 41540 28.3 79.2 NA / 49 998.3
05 / 0000 Zim California 29.0 77.6 100 / 35 1012.0
05 / 0600 Saudi Abha 26.8 76.4 140 / 37 1005.4
05 / 1200 Mariner of the Seas (C6FV9) 24.2 81.5 260 / 43 1004.0
05 / 1200 Galveston Bay 27.3 73.8 350 / 40 1013.0
05 / 1800 SHIP 25.0 83.4 270 / 39 1004.7
06 / 0000 Maersk New Orleans 29.1 78.4 120 / 35 1009.0
06 / 0900 Name Unknown (KS004) 25.8 80.1 170 / 37 1006.9
06 / 0900 Chevron Arizona 27.5 86.1 350 / 37 999.5
06 / 1500 Heidelberg Express 28.5 79.6 130 / 39 1011.8
06 / 1800 Sea-Land Freedom 30.1 79.7 160 / 36 1010.0
06 / 1800 Nordon 31.8 79.3 120 / 35 1013.0
07 / 0000 Nordon 31.4 80.4 120 / 37 1009.3
09 / 0300 Nanticoke 42.1 81.4 050 / 38 1014.0
09 / 1200 Canadian Progress 42.7 80.1 000 / 35 N/A
10 / 0600 Carnival Victory (3FFL8) 43.1 65.1 180 / 35.11 1018.0

Table 4. Selected ship and drifting buoy reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Hurricane Frances, 25 August-8 September 2004

Eight deaths resulted from the forces of the storm-seven in the United States and one in the Bahamas. U.S. damage is estimated to be near $8.9 billion, over 90% of which occurred in Florida. Widespread damage also occurred in the central and northwestern Bahamas.

Hurricane Gaston

Gaston developed slowly from an area of low pressure associated with a decaying frontal zone, and became a tropical depression on 27 August about 115 nmi east-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. Drifting erratically, the depression became a tropical storm the next day and continued to strengthen as it began to move northward toward the coast. Gaston reached hurricane strength just before making landfall in South Carolina on the morning of 29 August between Charleston and McClellanville. The cyclone weakened as it moved across northeastern South Carolina, becoming a tropical depression late in the day. Gaston moved northeastward over North Carolina and across the Delmarva Peninsula on 30 August, and late in the day re-strengthened to a tropical storm as it moved back over water. Gaston accelerated east-northeastward and became extratropical on 1 September south of the Canadian Maritimes.

Several ships encountered Gaston, mainly during passage over the North Atlantic shipping lanes. A ship with call sign WYRG reported winds of 44 kts at 0600 UTC 1 September, while the Finnfighter (SBFC) twice reported winds of 45 kts after Gaston became extratropical. Near the coast, an automated station at South Capers Island, South Carolina reported sustained winds of 46 kts with a gust to 71 kts at 1124 UTC 29 August, along with a minimum pressure of 985.1 hPa at 1254 UTC that day.

Gaston produced widespread flooding across South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Rainfall totals exceeding 12 inches in the Richmond area, where flash floods killed eight people. Total U.S. damage is estimated to be near $130 million. Table 5 contains ship report information on Hurricane Gaston.

Date/Time
(UTC)
Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed
(kts)
Pressure (hPa)
29 / 0300 APL Shanghai
(A8DO7)
31.5 79.8 310 / 41 1006.0
29 / 0900 Nedlloyd Holland 31.9 79.6 270 / 38 1003.0
29 / 1800 OOCL Freedom 32.8 79.0 210 / 36 1006.7
30 / 1200 Olivia Maersk
(OXKO2)
33.9 76.6 200 / 35 1016.3
31 / 0000 Amapola
(H9YY)
36.5 75.1 170 / 36 1010.0
31 / 1900 Saudi Tabuk 40.6 68.9 130 / 37 1006.8
01 / 0600 Independence
(WRYG)
40.6 63.2 240 / 44 1006.8
01 / 0600 Albert 46.1 54.4 210 / 41 1010.3
01 / 1200 Henry Goodrich 46.4 48.4 210 / 43 1011.6
01 / 1200 Platform (VEP717) 46.7 48.7 210 / 43 1009.9
01 / 1500 GSF Grand Banks
(YJUF7)
46.8 48.0 210 / 40 1008.9
01 / 1800 Henry Goodrich 46.4 48.4 210 / 41 1008.2
01 / 1800 Finnfighter 47.3 41.8 220 / 45 1007.0
02 / 0000 Platform (VEP717) 46.7 48.7 170 / 38 1000.0
02 / 0000 GSF Grand Banks
(YJUF7)
46.8 48.0 180 / 35 1000.9
02 / 0600 Finnfighter 46.3 45.6 230 / 45 998.6
02 / 1800 Star Ismene(LANT5) 48.2 34.6 220 / 38 1000.0

Table 5. Selected ship reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Hurricane Gaston, 27 August-1 September 2004.

Tropical Storm Hermine

Hermine developed from the same decaying frontal system that spawned Hurricane Gaston. An area of showers detached from the front on 26 August and the next day a tropical depression formed about 200 nmi south of Bermuda. The cyclone moved toward the west-northwest, became a tropical storm on 29 August, and reached its estimated peak intensity of 50 kts on 30 August. The storm moved northward and began to gradually weaken under strong northerly wind shear caused by the outflow of Gaston. Hermine reached the southern coast of Massachusetts near New Bedford as a minimal tropical storm on 31 August, and became extratropical shortly thereafter.

NOAA buoy 44004 reported a wind gust to 38 kts at 2034 UTC 30 August. Hermine also brought wind gusts to tropical-storm force over eastern Massachusetts.

Hurricane Ivan

Figure 5. GOES-12 visible image of 
Hurricane Ivan - Click to Enlarge

Figure 5. GOES-12 visible image of Hurricane Ivan at 1945 UTC 11 September 2004. Image courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, CA

Ivan developed from a large tropical wave that crossed the west coast of Africa on 31 August and spawned a tropical depression two days later. The depression reached storm strength on 3 September (one of only twelve on record to do so south of 10 N) and continued to strengthen. By 5 September, Ivan had become a hurricane about 1,000 nmi east of Tobago in the southern Windward Islands. Eighteen hours later, Ivan became the southernmost storm of record to reach major hurricane status, at 10.2 N. Ivan was a category 3 hurricane when its center passed just south of Grenada on 7 September, a path that took the northern eyewall of Ivan directly over the island. In the Caribbean, Ivan became a category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 140 kts, on 9 September (while south of the Dominican Republic) and maximum sustained winds of 145 kts on 11 September (Figure 5). The minimum central pressure measured by Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft twice fell to 910 hPa, once on 12 September and once on 13 September-tying the record for the sixth lowest central pressure of record for an Atlantic hurricane. The center of Ivan passed within about 20 nmi of Jamaica on 11 September and a similar distance from Grand Cayman on 12 September. Ivan then turned to the northwest and passed through the Yucatan channel on 14 September, bringing hurricane conditions to extreme western Cuba. Ivan moved across the east-central Gulf of Mexico, making landfall as a major hurricane with sustained winds near 105 kts on 16 September just west of Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Ivan weakened as it moved inland, but it produced over 100 tornadoes and heavy rains across much of the southeastern United States before merging with a frontal system over the Delmarva Peninsula on 18 September. Although this would normally be the end of the story, the extratropical remnant low of Ivan split off from the frontal system and drifted southward in the western Atlantic for several days, crossed southern Florida, and re-entered the Gulf of Mexico on 21 September. The low re-acquired tropical characteristics, becoming a tropical storm for the second time on 22 September in the central Gulf. Ivan weakened before it made its final landfall in southwestern Louisiana as a tropical depression on 24 September.

The highest marine winds observed during Ivan were from the oil drilling platform Ram Powell-VJ956 located about 70 nmi south of Mobile Bay, Alabama. It reported sustained winds of 102 kts with a gust to 135 kts at an elevation of 122 m at 2256 UTC 15 September. A sailboat moored at Wolf Bay, Alabama unofficially reported a wind gust to 126 kts at an elevation of 22 m at 0600 UTC 16 September. Other ship reports from Ivan are shown in Table 6. Among the many islands and coastal areas affected by Ivan, the highest winds were observed at Grand Cayman Island, which reported sustained winds of 130 kts with a gust to 149 kts at 1345 UTC 12 September. Point Salines, Grenada reported sustained winds of 64 kts with a gust to 101 kts at 2100 UTC 7 September, while there was an unofficial report of sustained winds of 77 kts with a gust to 99 kts at 0602 UTC 16 September from Gulf Shores. NOAA buoy 42040 reported a significant wave height of 52.5 ft as the center of Ivan passed nearby, and the buoy broke loose from its moorings during the hurricane.

Date/Time (UTC) Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed (kts) Pressure (hPa)
04 / 1100 Buoy 13009 8.0 38.0 NA / 36 N/A
08 / 0359 MV Son Monoy 10.7 66.2 320 / 40G50 N/A
08 / 1200 LNG Sokoto (ZCDE4) 11.6 62.7 120 / 47 1007.2
11 / 0600 Sheila McDevitt (WDA406) 15.9 77.5 230 / 37 1002.1
12 / 0400 JAG Prachi (ATPN) 16.8 80.2 010 / 46 1005.0
12 / 1500 UBC Svea (P3JA8) 17.7 81.8 250 / 53 997.5
13 / 1800 William Oldendorff (A8CO2) 18.3 85.5 260 / 35 1006.8
13 / 2100 William Oldendorff (A8CO2) 18.3 84.9 250 / 35 1005.9
14 / 0000 Norwegian Sea 17.9 86.8 280 / 44 1002.0
14 / 1000 Rhapsody of the Seas 22.6 88.8 020 / 44 999.0
14 / 1500 Saudi Abha 24.5 83.3 110 / 52 1004.3
14 / 1700 Advantage 25.3 83.9 120 / 47 1004.0
14 / 1800 Saudi Abha 24.1 82.7 120 / 52 1004.4
14 / 2300 Advantage 24.7 83.4 140 / 52 1004.2
15 / 1200 Star Ismene (LANT5) 24.2 85.1 180 / 43 1005.0
15 / 1500 Deepwater Horizon 27.0 90.0 360 / 50 963.0

Table 6. Selected ship and drifting buoy reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Hurricane Ivan, 2-24 September 2004.

Ivan's storm surge completely over-washed the island of Grand Cayman, where an estimated 95% of the buildings were damaged or destroyed. Surge heights of 10 to 15 ft occurred along the Gulf coast during Ivan's first U.S. landfall. The death toll from Ivan stands at 93-39 in Grenada, 26 in the United States, 17 in Jamaica, 4 in Dominican Republic, 3 in Venezuela, 2 in the Cayman Islands, and 1 each in Tobago and Barbados. U.S. damage is estimated to be near $14.2 billion, the second largest total on record. The hurricane also caused extensive damage on Grenada, Jamaica, and western Cuba.

Hurricane Jeanne

Figure 6. GOES-12 visible image of 
Hurricane Jeanne - Click to Enlarge

Figure 6. GOES-12 visible image of Hurricane Jeanne at 2145 UTC 25 September 2004. Image courtesy of the Naval Research laboratory, Monterey, CA.

Jeanne formed from a tropical wave, becoming a tropical depression on 13 September near the Leeward Islands, and strengthening to a tropical storm the next day just south of the Virgin Islands. Moving west-northwestward, Jeanne struck Puerto Rico on 15 September with estimated maximum sustained winds of 60 kts and then strengthened to a hurricane just before making landfall in the Dominican Republic the next day. Jeanne spent nearly 36 hours over the rough terrain of Hispaniola, generating localized torrential rainfall before emerging into the Atlantic north of the island. Steering currents in the western Atlantic were weak, and Jeanne moved slowly through and then to the north of the southeastern Bahamas over the next three days while it gradually regained the strength it lost over Hispaniola. It then turned eastward and regained hurricane strength by 22 September. By the next day, high pressure had built in over the northeastern United States and western Atlantic, causing Jeanne to loop back westward. Jeanne strengthened and became a major hurricane on 25 September while the center moved over Abaco and then Grand Bahama Island (Figure 6). Early the next day, the center of Jeanne's 60-mile-wide eye crossed the Florida coast near Stuart, at virtually the identical spot that Frances had come ashore three weeks earlier. Maximum winds at the time of landfall are estimated to be near 105 kts, and a reconnaissance aircraft measured a minimum central pressure of 950 hPa a few hours before landfall.

Jeanne weakened as it moved across central Florida, becoming a tropical storm during the afternoon of 26 September near Tampa, and then weakening to a depression a day later over central Georgia. The depression was still accompanied by heavy rain when it moved over the Carolinas, Virginia, and the Delmarva Peninsula on 28 and 29 September before becoming extratropical.

Several ships encountered the outer portions of Jeanne (Table 7). The most significant observation was from the London Express (DPLE), which reported winds of 52 kts at 1200 UTC 26 September. In the Bahamas, the NOAA C-MAN station at Settlement Point on Grand Bahama reported sustained winds of 77 kts with a gust to 86 kts at 0000 UTC 26 September. Along the Florida coast, an instrumented tower at Sebastian reported sustained winds of 71 kts with a gust to 88 kts at 0647 UTC 26 September. St. Croix, USVI reported sustained winds of 45 kts with a gust to 54 kts at 0800 UTC 15 September, while San Juan, Puerto Rico reported sustained winds of 43 kts with a gust to 62 kts at 1734 UTC 15 September.

Date/Time
(UTC)
Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed
(kts)
Pressure (hPa)
15 / 0300 Kaptian Bochek 17.3 64.5 060 / 39 1008.3
15 / 1200 Kaptian Bochek 17.9 64.7 100 / 49 1008.7
16 / 1800 CSX Discovery 22.4 69.6 080 / 37 1014.0
21 / 0600 Federal Progress 29.3 77.5 300 / 35 1014.0
22 / 2100 CSX Hawaii 29.9 67.7 010 / 40 1011.3
24 / 2100 CSX Challenger 30.1 74.1 050 / 37 1008.5
25 / 1200 El Yunque 29.5 78.2 070 / 44 1004.8
25 / 1700 CSX Producer 29.8 77.6 070 / 44 1006.5
25 / 1800 CSX Producer 29.7 77.5 080 / 42 1005.7
25 / 1800 Maersk Newark
(A8CF2)
30.1 79.1 060 / 44 1009.0
26 / 0000 London Express 25.6 80.0 270 / 45 997.3
26 / 0000 Maersk Newark
(A8CF2)
29.5 78.6 060 / 37 1004.0
26 / 0600 Chevron Arizona 26.0 88.0 060 / 37 1008.5
26 / 1200 Name Unknown
(WDB944)
27.8 79.6 160 / 42 996.0
26 / 1200 London Express 28.9 79.9 110 / 52 1001.2
26 / 1800 P&O Nedlloyd
Piraeus
27.6 79.1 140 / 35 1006.0
26 / 1800 Lykes Liberator 29.0 79.3 140 / 39 1003.0
26 / 2100 P&O Nedlloyd
Piraeus
27.0 79.4 180 / 35 1005.4
26 / 2300 Lykes Liberator 28.1 79.7 160 / 38 1000.5
27 / 0000 Nedlloyd Holland 80.3 150 / 50 998.9
28 / 1800 OOCL Faith 33.2 78.0 230 / 41 1007.0
29 / 1200 Lykes Navigator 36.9 72.5 260 / 35 1007.3

Table 7. Selected ship reports with sustained winds of at least 34 kts for Hurricane Jeanne, 13-28, September 2004.

Jeanne produced extreme rain accumulations in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, with nearly 24 inches reported on Vieques. Rains from the cyclone resulted in historic floods in Puerto Rico, and deadly flash-floods and mudslides in Haiti, where over 3,000 people were killed and roughly 200,000 were left homeless. Three deaths occurred in Florida, and one each in Puerto Rico, South Carolina, and Virginia. In the contiguous United States, damage is estimated to be near $6.9 billion. Additional damage occurred in the northwestern Bahamas, as well as in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

Hurricane Karl

Karl developed from a tropical wave, becoming a depression about 340 nmi southwest of the southern Cape Verde Islands on 16 September and a tropical storm the following day. Unlike its predecessors, Frances and Ivan, Karl remained over the open waters of the central Atlantic, moving generally west-northwestward from 17-20 September, north-northwestward on 21-22 September, and then generally north-northeastward for the remainder of its life as a tropical cyclone. Karl became a hurricane on 18 September and reached an estimated peak intensity of 125 kts on 21 September. Karl then weakened unsteadily and lost tropical characteristics about 510 nmi east of Cape Race, Newfoundland on 25 September. It eventually passed over Scandinavia as an extratropical low.

Ships avoided the core of Karl. Reports of winds of tropical storm force from the periphery of the cyclone given in Table 8. The highest reported wind was from the Rotterdam (PDGS), which reported a sustained wind of 45 kts at 1800 UTC 24 September. Two drifting buoys encountered the core of Karl on 24 September. Buoy 41600 reported a pressure of 958.1 hPa at 0100 UTC, while buoy 44617 reported a pressure of 964.2 hPa at 2100 UTC.

Date/Time (UTC) Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed
(kts)
Pressure (hPa)
21 / 0600 Bering Sea 19.5 43.8 150 / 35 1011.0
21 / 1540 Buoy 13600 22.4 46.8 230 / 39 1000.5
23 / 1200 Lapponian Reefer 27.6 43.1 180 / 44 1011.7
23 / 1500 Star Herdla 31.0 41.4 170 / 41 1007.0
23 / 1800 A8CR8 29.5 40.7 200 / 41 1012.0
23 / 1800 Star Herdla 31.1 41.5 190 / 39 1004.7
24 / 0600 Maersk Durban 36.4 36.0 230 / 41 1009.0
24 / 0600 Santa Maria 42.8 38.1 120 / 39 1002.4
24 / 0900 Colombo Bay 42.5 46.9 010 / 35 1003.1
24 / 1800 Rotterdam 44.4 34.5 150 / 45 1009.3

Table 8. Selected ship and drifting buoy reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Hurricane Karl, 16-24 September 2004.

Hurricane Lisa

Lisa developed from a tropical wave, becoming a depression on 19 September about 450 nmi west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. The depression became a tropical storm the next day. Lisa moved westward for a couple of days, and then interacted with an area of disturbed weather approaching Lisa from the east. The disturbance and Lisa looped about each other on 22-23 September, until the disturbance became absorbed into Lisa's circulation. This interaction and subsequent northerly wind shear caused Lisa to oscillate in strength between a 35 kts tropical storm and a 30 kts depression during 23-24 September. Lisa then resumed a westward track on 24 September before turning northward in the central Atlantic. Its strength continuing to oscillate, Lisa moved slowly northward for nearly a week before turning northeastward on 1 October ahead of a strong upper-level trough. Lisa strengthened, briefly becoming a hurricane with estimated maximum sustained winds of 65 kts on 2 October, before weakening back to a tropical storm later that day due to very cold waters and increasing vertical wind shear. Lisa became extratropical early on 3 October about 1000 nmi east-southeast of Cape Race.

A few ships encountered the outer fringes of Lisa (Table 9). The most significant observation was from the ship Snow Land (ZCGH), which reported winds of 47 kts at 1200 UTC 29 September.

Date/Time
(UTC)
Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed
(kts)
Pressure (hPa)
26 / 2100 Buoy 13602 19.8 44.0 100 / 38 1010.1
27 / 0900 Foylebank 20.4 42.9 130 / 35 1011.7
28 / 0940 Buoy 41595 24.5 43.5 NA / 43 1014.2
29 / 1200 Name Unknown
(ZCGH)
28.3 46.6 320 / 47 1008.3
02 / 2100 Lykes Navigator 47.1 42.3 050 / 40 1013.9

Table 9. Selected ship and drifting buoy reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Hurricane Lisa, 19 Sept. - 3 Oct. 2004.

Tropical Storm Matthew

After existing for about a week as an area of disturbed weather caused by the interaction of a tropical wave and an upper-level trough, Matthew began as a depression about 180 nmi southeast of Brownsville, Texas on 8 October. The depression became a tropical storm later that day, and the cyclone reached its peak intensity of 40 kts on 9 October, after which vertical shear prevented further strengthening. Steered by a large mid- to upper-level low over western Texas, Matthew made landfall just west of Cocodrie, Louisiana the next day with maximum sustained winds of 35 kts. The weakening cyclone continued inland and was absorbed by a frontal system on 11 October.

Two ships reported tropical-storm force winds from Matthew. The Deepwater Millenium (3FJA9) reported winds of 39 kts at 1700 UTC 9 October, while the Deepwater Horizon (H3SM) reported winds of 37 kts at 0000 UTC 10 October. On the Louisiana coast, the NOAA C-MAN station at the southwest pass of the mouth of the Mississippi River reported sustained winds of 42 kts with a gust to 48 kts at 0940 UTC 10 October. The station also reported a wind gust to 83 kts during a severe thunderstorm at 1228 UTC that day.

Matthew's landfall was accompanied by rains in excess of 16 inches, and a 6 ft storm surge that included rises from winds generated by a strong pre-existing pressure gradient in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Damage, however, was minor.

Subtropical Storm Nicole

Nicole's genesis appears to be associated with an upper-level trough and a decaying frontal system over the southwestern North Atlantic during the first week of October. By 8 October, a broad area of surface low pressure with gale-force winds had developed about 400 nmi southeast of Bermuda. On 10 October, the system developed loosely-banded convective cloud patterns and a well-defined surface circulation center about 120 nmi south of Bermuda, marking the formation of a subtropical storm. The center of Nicole passed about 60 miles northwest of Bermuda on 11 October, and then accelerated northeastward. It reached an estimated peak intensity of 45 kts just before becoming absorbed by a potent extratropical cyclone south of Nova Scotia later that day.

Several ships encountered Nicole, including the Teco Trader (KSDF) which reported winds of 45 kts at 1200 UTC 11 October (Table 10). Bermuda reported sustained winds of 39 kts with a gust to 48 kts at 2018 UTC 10 October.

Date/Time
(UTC)
Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed
(kts)
Pressure (hPa)
09 / 2200 Buoy 41590 26.5 59.2 NA / 36 1013.1
10 / 0600 Strong Virginian 33.3 68.1 360 / 38 1005.7
10 / 0900 Strong Virginian 33.3 67.7 000 / 36 1002.5
10 / 1700 Buoy 41539 25.6 69.0 NA / 41 1012.6
11 / 0300 Maersk Newcastle
(A8DM9)
33.3 67.7 320 / 39 1017.1
11 / 0600 Freedom (WDB548) 38.1 69.6 290 / 43 1007.5
11 / 1200 Teco Trader 35.3 61.2 190 / 45 N/A
11 / 1200 Freedom (WDB548) 38.3 67.4 320 / 38 1003.5
11 / 1800 Sluisgracht 39.4 57.1 170 / 35 998.0
11 / 1800 Ville de Libra 40.9 55.9 150 / 43 1003.1

Table 10. Selected ship and drifting buoy reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Subtropical Storm Nicole, 10-11 October 2004.

Tropical Storm Otto

An extratropical low formed on 26 November about 1,000 nmi southwest of the Azores. The low drifted southwestward and gradually acquired central convection over the next couple of days. It is estimated that the low became a subtropical storm on 29 November about 1,000 nmi east-southeast of Bermuda. After reaching an estimated peak intensity of 45 kts as a subtropical storm, Otto transformed into a tropical storm on 30 November. Thereafter, Otto gradually weakened to a tropical depression on 2 December and a non-convective remnant low on 3 December. The low dissipated on 5 December about 800 nmi northeast of the Leeward Islands.

Although Otto was far from either land or the main North Atlantic shipping lanes, several ships reported tropical-storm force winds (Table 11). The strongest observed wind was from the Star Hansa (LAXP4) which reported 51 kts at 1800 UTC 29 November. While this might justify a higher peak intensity for Otto, a quality control check by the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center suggests the reported winds may have been a little too high.

Date/Time
(UTC)
Ship call sign/name Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Wind dir/speed
(kts)
Pressure (hPa)
26 / 0000 Maersk Nantes (V2OO7) 33.0 41.1 070 / 37 1015.0
29 / 0600 Jing Yang 31.0 48.0 070 / 39 1005.0
29 / 1200 Jing Yang 30.3 49.6 070 / 35 1001.3
29 / 1800 Star Hansa 33.5 48.1 060 / 51 1008.8
29 / 1800 Anjeliersgracht 35.7 50.3 070 / 37 1014.1
29 / 1800 Endeavor 44.7 44.7 090 / 37 1013.5

Table 11. Selected ship reports with winds of at least 34 kts for Tropical Storm Otto, 29 November-3 December 2004.

Tropical Depression Ten

The only tropical depression of the 2004 season that did not become a tropical storm formed on 7 September about 630 nmi southwest of the westernmost Azores. Strong vertical wind shear prevented additional development while the system moved northeastward on 8-9 September, and the system weakened to a non-convective remnant low on 9 September. The low dissipated the next day about 230 nmi west-southwest of the southernmost Azores.

Acknowledgments:

The cyclone summaries are based on reports prepared by the authors and the other Hurricane Specialists at the National Hurricane Center: Lixion Avila, Miles Lawrence, Richard Pasch, and Stacy Stewart. Additional material was contributed by Eric Blake, Dan Brown, Hugh Cobb, Colin McAdie, and David Roberts. Stephen Baig prepared the track map.

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