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Michelle - 2001
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HURRICANE MICHELLE

michelle.jpg
Hurricane Michelle Makes Landfall in Cuba

A tropical wave moved westward off the coast of Africa on October 16, the wave did not develop as it moved across the unfavorable Atlantic, but convection increased on October 26 when the wave reached the warmer and more favorable waters of the Caribbean. The system organized itself into a tropical depression on October 29 over the coast of Nicaragua, and drifted around there for the next 36 hours in a slow northward drift. The northward motion brought the depression back over open waters on October 31, and it became Tropical Storm Michelle late on October 31 while about 50 miles north of Cabo Gracias, Nicaragua. Michelle moved to the north-northwest on November 1 and strengthened slowly but steadily, and became a hurricane on November 2. Michelle underwent a period of rapid intensification at this point, reaching a first peak intensity of 937 mbar with winds of 135 mph, making the storm a powerful Category 4. Michelle weakened slightly to 130 mph at the next advisory, making it a Cat 3, but regained Category 4 status shortly after. The powerful Category 4 storm now moved slowly to the northeast and reached a maximum intensity of 140 mph winds and a pressure of 933 mbar as it made landfall on the Cuban Coast near the Bay of Pigs. The storm was disrupted by the passage over Cuba, and it gradually lost tropical characteristics as it accelerated northeast through the central Bahamas. Michelle weakened to an extratropical storm late on October 5, and was absorbed into a front on October 6.

The total death toll from Michelle was seventeen, six in Honduras, five in Cuba, four in Nicaragua, and two in Jamaica. Another 26 people were reported missing. Hurricane Michelle was the strongest hurricane to hit Cuba since Hurricane Fox in 1952, which was also a category 4 storm. Heavy rains in Honduras and Nicaragua caused widespread flooding, and nearly 100,000 residents were evacuated. Two tornadoes were spawned from the storm in Florida, causing about 20,000 in damage, and about 28 million in damage was reported in the Cayman Islands. Total damage statistics are not available. Due to the destruction of the storm, the name Michelle was retired in the spring of 2002 and will be replaced with Melissa when the list is used again in 2007.

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