|Powerful Hurricane Iris in the Western Caribbean
A tropical wave that had moved into the Atlantic in late September began to organize on October 3, and became more impressive
on October 4 when it was strong enough to become Tropical Depression Eleven about 85 miles east of the Windward Islands. The
depression moved west into the Caribbean, crossing the Windward Islands later on the 4th with squalls and heavy rains. The
depression became Tropical Storm Iris about 250 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico on October 5. Despite a well organized
cloud pattern, the storm was fairly weak and strengthening was very slow, until it became a hurricane just south of the Dominican
Republic on October 6. A ridge to the north of Iris kept the storm on a straight path to the west, sparing the island of Jamaica
from a direct hit on October 7.
After passing to the south of the island, Iris took a turn more to the WSW and entered warmer waters as it did so. This
induced a rapid intensification cycle late on the 7th, which dropped the pressure from 990 mbar to 950 mbar in less than 18
hours, and made Iris a powerful 140 mph Category 4 storm on October 8 as it headed for Belize. The inner eyewall collapsed
temporarily after reaching this intensity, which weakened the storm slightly, but the storm re-strengthened to even stronger
than before with winds of 145 mph and a pressure of 948 mbar at landfall on October 9 about 60 miles south of Belize City.
Iris weakened very rapidly after landfall over the mountains of Central America, and it was downgraded to a Tropical Storm
just six hours later, as the winds dropped an incredible 65 mph in that amount of time. Iris dissipated another six hours
later on the 9th, and the storm was virtually unrecognizable at this point.
The center of Iris was very compact, so damage was relatively limited to an approximate sixty mile radius around the eye.
The most catastrophic damage was reported at the site of landfall, near Monkey River Town, where up to 15 foot storm surge
was reported. Most houses in the area were reportedly obliterated with no mercy by Iris. A total of 31 deaths were reported
due to Iris, from various countries that were affected by the storm. A total of 66.2 million dollars in damage was reported
by the Belize government. Due to the destruction of the storm, the name Iris was retired in the Spring of 2002 and will be
replaced with Ingrid when the list is used again in 2007.