Hurricane Jerry 1989

Preliminary Report
Hurricane Jerry
12 - 16 October 1989


Tropical Storm Allison (TS)
Tropical Storm Barry (TS)
Hurricane Chantal (1)
Hurricane Dean (2)
Hurricane Erin (2)
Hurricane Felix (1)
Hurricane Gabrielle (4)
Hurricane Hugo (5)
Tropical Storm Iris (TS)
Hurricane Jerry (1)
Tropical Storm Karen (TS)

a. Synoptic History

On 23 September a westward moving tropical wave emerged from the northwest coast of Africa. The wave moved across the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea with no additional signs of organization. The wave's westward motion decreased over the Yucatan Peninsula where a broad area of low pressure became evident in the surface pressure field and in the low cloud motions observed in the animation of satellite images. On 12 October the low first satisfied the Dvorak technique criteria and therefore was classified by NHC satellite analysts as it moved off the Yucutan peninsula into the Bay of Campeche. Shortly after an Air Force reconnaissance aircraft confirmed a circulation center near 1900 UTC on the 12th, the system declared the fourteenth tropical depression of the 1989 hurricane season. Post-analysis suggests that the depression formed by 1200 UTC while located about 200 nautical miles east-northeast of Veracruz, Mexico.

The depression moved slowly toward the north-northwest, with satellite and aircraft reconnaissance reports indicating it attained tropical storm strength early on 13 October. Tropical Storm Jerry moved generally northward at between 6 and 12 mph on the 13th while gradually strengthening. While in the west central Gulf of Mexico early on 14 October, Jerry turned toward the north-northeast and slowly in response to the approach of a mid to upper-level trough from the west that weakened the steering currents. Later on 14 October, a mid to upper-level low cut-off over the western Gulf of Mexico to the southwest of Jerry. This cut-off low was responsible for turning Jerry back toward the north-northwest. At the same time, the upper-level shear increased over the tropical cyclone, temporarily halting development. As Jerry continued north-northwestward, however, the mid to upper-level low dropped southward into the southwest Gulf of Mexico, resulting in a more favourable upper-level outflow pattern over the tropical cyclone.

As the upper-level shear diminished, deep convection began developing near the center of Jerry, and the cyclone reached hurricane status by 1800 UTC on 15 October. Steering currents became somewhat stronger as a high pressure ridge built over the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricane Jerry's forward motion increased to slightly more than 12 mph as it moved toward the upper Texas coast.

Based on aircraft reconnaissance reports, Hurricane Jerry deepened 13 mb over a 13 hour period from near 0800 UTC to 2100 UTC on 15 October. While this does not qualify as rapid deepening, it is approximately twice as fast as the deepening observed on the 12th and 13th of October.

The center of Hurricane Jerry made landfall on Galveston Island near Jamaica Beach at approximately 0030 UTC on 16 October as a category one hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. No hurricane has made landfall on the upper Texas as late in the season as did Jerry. The minimum pressure at landfall reported by reconnaissance aircraft was 983 mb. Once over land, Jerry turned toward the north and then north-northeast over eastern Texas at an increasing forward speed. The hurricane weakened rapidly and was downgraded to a tropical storm by 0600 UTC, and to a tropical depression by 1200 UTC. By 1800 UTC on 16 October, the remnants of Jerry were absorbed by a frontal trough over southwest Arkansas.

b. Meteorological Statistics

Maximum sustained winds of 75 mph with gusts to 100 mph were measured at Scholes Field on Galveston Island as the eyewall passed over the airport. The observation site lost power near this time, and the observer estimated maximum sustained winds reached near 81 mph with gusts to 104 to 115 mph shortly after the power outage. The estimated peak wind and gust occurred about the time an unconfirmed tornado was reported near Scholes Field. The Galveston Weather Service Office, located to the east of Scholes Field, reported sustained winds of 46 mph with gusts to 85 mph.

The small size of the tropical cyclone is evident by the lack of the sustained tropical storm force winds reported elsewhere over the upper Texas and western Louisiana coasts. Jerry also weakened quite rapidly after landfall, with less than tropical storm force winds reported at Houston International Airport and at Houston Hobby Airport.

An extrapolated minimum pressure of 982 was reported by a NOAA aircraft at 2002 UTC and by an Air Force plane at 2211 UTC on the 15th, just prior to landfall. The minimum pressure of 983 mb at the time of landfall was reported from an Air Force plane as the eye passed over Galveston Island.

1. Storm Surge Data

Maximum tides of 6.0, 7.0, 5.3 and 2.3 feet MSL were reported at the Galveston Flagship pier, Baytown, Anahuac and Sabine Pass, Texas, respectively. Cameron, Louisiana, reported tides of 3.2 feet, and the 2 foot tides estimated at St Mary Parish were probably representative of the Vermillion/Atachatalaya Bay area of Louisiana. Unofficial reports of tides surging to 8 feet were reported near the entrance of the Houston ship channel.

2. Rainfall Data

Largest rainfall totals occurred at Silsbee, Friendship and Anahuac, Texas, where 24-hour totals ending at 1200 UTC on 16 October were 6.4, 4.75 and 4.5 inches, respectively.

3. Tornadoes

A total of 6 tornadoes were reported over eastern Texas in association with Jerry, although it is not clear whether they were in fact tornadoes or severe downbursts.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

There were 3 deaths attributed to Jerry; 3 in Texas.

The death toll is reported to be 3. The 3 people were in a car which either drove off the Galveston seawall in blinding rain, or was blown off by the winds. Light beach erosion was reported on portions of Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. A portion of Texas highway 87 between Sea Rim State Park and High Island was washed out.

The American Insurance Association reports $35 Million as the insured property for Texas. A conservative ratio between total damage and insured property damage, compared to past landfalling hurricanes, is two to one. Therefore, the total U.S. damage estimate is $70 Million.

Maximum Intensity For Hurricane Jerry
12 - 16 October, 1989

Position Pressure
Wind Speed
Lat. (°N) Lon. (°W)
15/2100 28.6 94.8 982 80 Category 1 Hurricane

Landfall for Hurricane Jerry
12 - 16 October, 1989
Wind Speed
Stage Landfall
16/0030 983 85 Category 1 Hurricane Jamaica Beach,