Hurricane Kate 1985

Preliminary Report
Hurricane Kate
15 - 23 November 1985


Tropical Storm Ana (TS)
Hurricane Bob (1)
Hurricane Claudette (1)
Hurricane Danny (1)
Hurricane Elena (3)
Tropical Storm Fabian (TS)
Hurricane Gloria (4)
Tropical Storm Henri (TS)
Tropical Storm Isabel (TS)
Hurricane Juan (1)
Hurricane Kate (3)

a. Synoptic History

High pressure surface and aloft dominated the fall weather of 1985 across the southeastern U.S while a major trough persisted over the southwestern states. As a result, with the exception of a brief cool front, no cold weather had been able to penetrate the Gulf, Caribbean nor the southwest North Atlantic south of 32°N prior to the advent of Kate. Therefore, when the tropical wave which ultimately became Kate commenced to develop just northeast of the Virgin Islands, weather conditions were more like one would expect to find in late September or early October rather than mid November with sea surface temperartures near 27°C, high pressure surface and aloft dominated the eastern U.S. and western Atlantic which provided the blocking mechanism to force the developing system (Kate) toward the west.

Development of Kate began just northeast of the Virgin Islands when a weak tropical wave began to interact with a 200 mb trough on 13 - 14 November. By the time Air Force reconnaissance investigated the area on 15 November, the system had already attained tropical storm force winds and was named Kate. On 16 November the 200 mb trough developed a cut off closed circulation and by 17 November accelerated to the southwest in advance of Kate's circulation. Meantime a large 200 mb anticyclone located over the Florida Straits on 16 November built northeastward and placed Kate in an excellent outflow pattern between the anticyclone and the southwest moving upper cold low. The tropical storm responded to this favourable pattern and intensified to hurricane strength by 1800 UTC on 16 November and to a 967 mb hurricane by 0000 UTC 19 November as the hurricane moved westward through the extreme southeast Bahamas.

By 0600 UTC 19 November the eye of Kate made contact with the north central cuban coast. Satellite pictures showed an excellent view of Kate's well structured eye as the center moved onshore. Even though the majority of the eye wall cloud moved over land and continued to track inland for a period of 12 hours, satellite pictures indicated that Kate maintained an excellent eye definition during the entire time. Air Force reconnaissance's data indicate Kate weakened from 967 mb, just prior to landfall, to 976 mb just after it emerged from the Cuban coast just east of Havana.

By 0000 UTC 20 November Kate had cleared the island of Cuba and the center had passed as close as 85 miles south-southwest of Key West. It was during this next 24 hour period that Kate reintensified at a rate of nearly 1 mb per hour from a 972 mb at 0000 UTC 20 November to 953 mb (lowest pressure) at 2000 UTC 20 November.

At 0000 UTC 20 November a frontal trough, moving from the west, was located over the upper Mississippi valley and extended southwest into Texas. As Kate moved off the Cuban coast it began a turn toward the northwest in response to the advancing frontal system. By the Kate had reached the central eastern Gulf if was moving toward the north and commenced to move over cooler waters. The combination of cooler gulf waters (22°C just off the Gulf north coast) and increasing southwest shear from the approaching frontal trough caused Kate to begin weakening once the hurricane moved north of latitude 26.5°N. By the time it reached the coast at Mexico Beach, Florida, Kate had weakened to 967 mb.

Maximum winds at landfall were near 98 mph. Kate continued to track toward the northeast, passing just to the west of Tallahassee. The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm by 1000 UTC on 22 November as it continued moving toward the northeast across south central Georgia. Kate continued to lose strength after in emerged over the Carolina coastal waters late in the day on 22 November. Sea surface temperatures along the coast were in the upper teens celcius and even the Gulf Stream was a mild 24°C. Also strong shear continued over the system. Therefore, Kate continued to weaken and became extratropical on 23 November as it turned toward the east-southeast. The remnants of Kate produced wind gusts of 26 mph at Bermuda as it passed just to the north of the island on the morning of 24 November.

b. Meteorological Statistics

Maximum winds observed from Cuban stations in or near the track were 75 mph from Sagua La Grande Las Villas while Varadero reported 69 mph from the east with gusts to 104 mph. Havana had north and west winds of 58 to 69 mph.

Maximum sustained winds at WSO Key West were 47 mph with peak gusts of 69 mph. However unofficial wind gusts from a sheriff's office (annemometer reportedly on roof of third flood building) was 104 mph.

The center of Kate passed very close to the NOAA buoy in the eastern Gulf about the same time Air Force reconnaissance was in the hurricane. Pressure measurements from the dropsonde and the data Buoy were extremely close. Aircracft measured the central pressure of Kate at 956 mb while the data Buoy had a reading of 957 mb. During this time period the aircraft was measuring top winds of 115 mph to 125 mph while the data Buoy reported an 8 minute average wind speed of 108 mph with a peak gust of 136 mph.

1. Storm Surge Data

Storm surge tides as high as 11 feet were recorded at Cape San Blas, Florida.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

Little structual damage occured in the state capital of Tallahassee, howver, numerous trees were downed extensive power outrage throughout the area.

The damage of Kate in the Apalachicola area was extensive due to the ruination of the Oyster Industry. Earlier in the year Elena did considerable damage to the oyster beds in the Apalachicola area. However, the final blow was dealt by kate. Death toll for the hurricane stands at 6.

Total damage bill for Kate is estimated at $300 Million.

Maximum Intensity For Hurricane Kate
15 - 23 November, 1985

Position Pressure
Wind Speed
Lat. (°N) Lon. (°W)
20/2000 26.2 86.2 953 120 Category 3 Hurricane

Landfall for Hurricane Kate
15 - 23 November, 1985
Wind Speed
Stage Landfall
19/0600 967 110 Category 2 Hurricane North-Central Cuba
21/2230 967 100 Category 2 Hurricane Mexico Beach,