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Earl - 1998
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HURRICANE EARL

earl1998.jpg
Tropica l Storm Earl After Landfall in Florida

A potent tropical wave emerged off the coast of Africa on August 17. The wave moved west through the Atlantic, but did not develop as it moved through the tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean. As the wave entered the Caribbean, conditions became even less favorable, partially due to the outflow of nearby Hurricane Bonnie to the north. When the wave entered the Gulf of Mexico, it finally began to develop and became Tropical Depression Five when located about halfway between Meridia and Tampico, Mexico on August 31. The depression tracked north-northeast at first, before turning north-northwest when it became Tropical Storm Earl just later on the 31st when located about 500 miles south of New Orleans, Louisiana. Earl was very disorganized at first, and the center became difficult to locate, and a new center would form occasionally which made tracking difficult. The storm nonetheless managed to become a hurricane midday on September 2 when located about 125 miles south-southeast of New Orleans, Louisiana. Earl strengthened to its peak intensity at Category 2 strength with winds of 95 mph and a pressure of 985 mbar when located just about 100 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, before it weakened slightly before landfall. It crashed ashore near Panama City, Florida as a Category 1 storm with 80 mph winds very early on September 3.

The storm was quite disorganized through its whole life, with most of the convection to the east of the circulation, never showing a classic hurricane like eye structure. Hence, the strongest winds remained to the east of the center, which caused heavy storm surge in the “Big Bend” area of Florida, which was far away from the center. Earl was downgraded to a tropical storm later on the 3rd, and it became extratropical later that day while located over Georgia. The extratropical system continued over the United States until emerging into the Atlantic Ocean on September 4. The remnant was tracked into the far north Atlantic where it merged with a larger system which was previously Hurricane Danielle on September 8. Hurricane Earl killed a total of three people, two from a capsized boat, and one from a tornado near Helena, South Carolina. The total damage estimates were at 79 million, mostly in Florida.

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