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Hurricane Georges
Hits Puerto Rico
Three Months After

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Hurricane Georges
Hurricane Georges: The Diary of a Storm

September 15, 1998
A tropical weather system emerges in the waters off the West African coast, some 650 km southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. It is classified as Tropical Depression 7.

September 16
The system becomes more intense. It is upgraded and named Tropical Storm Georges.

September 17
The system intensifies, becoming Hurricane Georges, the fourth hurricane of the 1998 season. It is now 2100 km east of the Lesser Antilles.

September 19
A reconnaissance aircraft is sent to the system to measure wind speeds and atmospheric pressure. The winds are clocked at 240 km per hour, atmospheric pressure at 938 millibars. Georges is now a powerful Category 4 hurricane.

September 20
Hurricane Georges runs into unfavorable conditions. A wind shear, which is a radical shift in wind speed and direction over a very short distance, is breaking up the symmetry of the cyclone. Georges has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane and is now 940 km southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

September 21
Hurricane Georges greets the day some 120 km east of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. It has found warmer waters and the wind shear has disappeared. The winds can now circulate unimpeded around the eye of the storm. Georges has strengthened, and at 5:30 p.m. it is upgraded to Category 3. At 6 p.m. the eye is just off the east coast of Puerto Rico. At 7 p.m. the eye touches land in the area of Humacao / Yabucoa, along the island's southeast coast. Many severe hurricanes over the centuries have entered here. Georges' winds are clocked at 184 kph. Its gusts rise up to 240 kph. Atmospheric pressure is 967 mb. The diameter of the eye is between 32 and 40 km wide. The hurricane passes over the island just to the south of the Cordillera Central, the island's central mountains. Intense thunderstorms, very heavy rains, and occasional tornadoes accompany the eye as it moves across the island at around 24 km per hour. At 8 p.m. the eye is 32 km southwest of San Juan, where almost half of Puerto Rico's population lives.

September 22
At 1 a.m. the eye leaves Puerto Rico to the west-southwest of Mayag˙ez, Puerto Rico's largest, west coast city.

SAN JUAN. September 22, 1998
Hurricane Georges was the most destructive hurricane to strike Puerto Rico since Hurricane San Ciprian hit in 1932.

Hurricane Trackers: High Risk, High Reward. U.S. military aircraft, commanded by pilots with incredible nerve, have been flying into hurricanes since the mid-1940s. Once inside, they measure wind velocity and direction, the location and size of the eye, atmospheric pressure within the storm, and its thermal structure. In the mid-1950s, a coordinated system of tracking hurricanes was developed, and it has greatly reduced the element of surprise, something no one wants from a hurricane. Radar, sea-based recording devices, weather satellites (since the mid-1960s), and other technologies now send crucial information to the National Hurricane Center in Florida. Scientists there specialize in watching storms in great detail, from the moment of their creation. Modern technology has helped to minimize the loss of life in a hurricane, but with the growth of populations in coastal regions, property damage continues to rise.

Review Questions

  1. Describe how information about hurricanes is collected.
  2. Why does the category of Hurricane Georges change during its path to Puerto Rico? What category is it when it hits land?
  3. What types of damage would you expect of Hurricane George based on your answer to Question 2?