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Helene - 2000
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TROPICAL STORM HELENE

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Tropical Storm Helene in the Gulf of Mexico

A tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa into the Eastern Atlantic on September 10. The wave was originally well developed, but it lost all of its deep convection the next day as it continued moving west. The wave did not show signs of redevelopment until September 14 when convection began to flare near the center of the system. Showers and thunderstorms continued overnight and it became Tropical Depression Twelve on the afternoon of September 15. The depression appeared to be weakening almost immediately after this, and an aircraft was unable to find a closed circulation, indicating that the depression had degenerated into a tropical wave. It is notable that, even without a center, the aircraft reported winds in excess of 65 mph to the north and east of the wave.

The remnant wave moved over the Leeward Islands on September 17, and produced heavy rains and tropical storm force gusts. The atmosphere seemed increasingly favorable for development and regeneration, but it did not begin to do so until late on September 19 when a closed circulation was found once again. The wave was redesignated a depression that day when it was just northwest of Grand Cayman and moving to the WNW. The depression was still very weak with little convection near the center when it crossed the western tip of Cuba the next day. However, convection began to re-develop as the depression entered the Gulf of Mexico and it became Tropical Storm Helene early on September 21.

Helene moved to the northwest and strengthened further under favorable conditions and reached a peak intensity with winds of 70 mph late on the 21st. The vertical wind shear was light at the time, but it began to increase as the storm moved further north which prevented Helene from becoming a hurricane. The convection began to become displaced early on the 22nd, and weakening quickly ensued and weakened Helene to a 40 mph tropical storm before it made landfall near Fort Walton Beach, Florida at about 7 am CDT on the 22nd.

After landfall, weakening continued and quickened in pace, and Helene was downgraded to a depression as it accelerated to the northeast. Surprisingly, the depression was able to maintain itself over land, even with significant wind shear on the system. The depression regained tropical storm strength over North Carolina just before re-emerging in the Atlantic waters. Helene continued to race away from the coast into the open waters and strengthened to a second peak intensity of 70 mph winds, but still failed to reach hurricane strength.

Helene merged with a cold front late on September 25 in the north Atlantic. Since Helene was a minimal tropical storm at landfall, damage was very minor, with the exception of flooding in Tallahassee, Florida due to nine inches of rain. One fatality occurred when a man was killed in an F2 tornado spawned by the depression in South Carolina on September 23.

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