Hurricane Erin 1995

Preliminary Report
Hurricane Erin
28 July - 06 August 1995


Hurricane Allison (1)
Tropical Storm Barry (TS)
Tropical Storm Chantal (TS)
Tropical Storm Dean (TS)
Hurricane Erin (2)
Hurricane Felix (4)
Tropical Storm Gabrielle (TS)
Hurricane Humberto (2)
Hurricane Iris (2)
Tropical Storm Jerry (TS)
Tropical Storm Karen (TS)
Hurricane Luis (4)
Hurricane Marilyn (3)

Hurricane Noel (1)
Hurricane Opal (4)
Tropical Storm Pablo (TS)
Hurricane Roxanne (3)
Tropical Storm Sebastien (TS)
Hurricane Tanya (1)

a. Synoptic History

Erin formed from a tropical wave that crossed from the coast of Africa to the tropical eastern Atlantic Ocean on 22 July 1995. A large area of disturbed weather and two distinct low-level circulation centers accompanied the wave. The circulation centers were oriented from northwest to southeast and moved in tandem toward the west-northwest over the following five days.

By the 27th, both circulations were generating deep convection a few hundred miles to the northeast of the Leeward Islands. A day later, meteorologists at the NHC Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB, formerly TSAF as in figures) and the NESDIS Synoptic Analysis Branch (SAB) assigned Dvorak technique T-numbers of 1.5 to the trailing cloud cluster. These numbers increased to T-2.5, potentially indicative of a tropical cyclone with 40 mph (tropical storm force) winds by midday on the 30th. In reality, although the cloud pattern was slowly consolidating and surface pressures were falling ahead of the system in the Bahamas, development was retarded by southwesterly vertical wind shear associated with an upper-level low that was moving southwestward at 12-17 mph across Florida. Reconnaissance aircraft data from the U.S. Air Force Reserves (Hurricane Hunters) on the 28th, 29th, and again during midday on the 30th indicated that the system did not have a closed circulation at low levels. Instead it was a very vigorous tropical wave--winds speeds around 46 mph were reported from ships in the northern part of the cloud pattern.

Because of the system's potential for development and its close proximity to the Bahamas and Florida, a special nighttime reconnaissance mission was requested by the NHC and flown by the Hurricane Hunters late on the 30th. The first "vortex message" was transmitted to the NHC shortly after 0100 UTC on the 31st. From that information it is estimated that the system became Tropical Storm Erin at 0000 UTC on the 31st.

The upper-level low near Florida affected Erin's movement and development. Associated steering currents accelerated Erin from 6 to 17 mph and diverted the cyclone around the northeast side of the low. The temporary and fairly subtle change of heading from west-northwest to northwest might have been insignificant if Erin had not been so close to land. Instead, the track of the center was deflected to a course that was over or near much of the Bahama Island chain and then toward a landfall over east-central (rather than southeast) Florida. As this occurred, enough shearing persisted to permit only slow strengthening. On the evening of the 31st, Erin became a hurricane while centered near Rum Cay in the Bahamas. A ragged-looking eye appeared on satellite pictures on August 1st. Erin made landfall around 0600 UTC on the 2nd near Vero Beach, Florida as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale, with estimated maximum 1-minute wind speeds of 86 mph.

Erin's track bent back to west-northwest while the cyclone crossed the Florida peninsula during the morning and early afternoon of the 2nd. The cyclone weakened to a tropical storm with 58-mph winds during that period, but remained well-organized. Upon emerging into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Erin reintensified on a track that gradually swung back to northwestward at about 10 knots. Final landfall occurred near Pensacola, Florida during the late morning of the 3rd. An eye had redeveloped but upper-level outflow was not particularly impressive on satellite images. Erin had around 98 mph winds (Category 2) in a small area of its northeastern eyewall when that part of the hurricane came ashore near Fort Walton Beach in the western Florida panhandle.

Erin weakened to a tropical storm in southeastern Mississippi overnight on the 3rd/4th. It was a tropical depression when its track shifted to the north on the 5th and the east on the 6th. The depression merged with a frontal system over West Virginia on the 6th.

b. Meteorological Statistics

Several reports of hurricane force winds (WMO-standard 10- minute average) were received from the Bahamas, including 78 and 81 mph during the passage of the northeast part of the eyewall over Cat Island at 0200 UTC and 0400 UTC, respectively, on August 1st. These 10-min winds are about 80 percent of the 99 mph maximum 10-second 850 mb flight-level winds encountered by the reconnaissance aircraft. Several amateur radio reports included gusts to around 104 mph in the Bahamas. The ship Tampa was in the northeastern eyewall at 1200 UTC on the 1st when it reported 81 mph winds.

The basis for the 86-mph wind speed estimate along the Florida east coast was a 1-minute wind speed of 86 mph recorded by a Florida Institute of Technology anemometer which made one observation per hour at Sebastian Inlet. This wind appears to coincide with the passage of one of Erin's strongest convective cells at that time (0500 UTC), which was located in the northwestern eyewall. While somewhat higher winds could have been expected to occur offshore in the (normally stronger) northeastern eyewall, Doppler radar data for that area suggests that the peak winds (inbound toward Melbourne) at the lowest tilt angle were only slightly stronger, around 98 mph. The maximum 850 mb flight-level wind speed then was around 98 mph.

A wind speed of 98 mph is estimated at 1330 UTC on 3 August near Fort Walton Beach. This took place in a small area within Erin's strongest sector, the northeastern eyewall, as it swept across the shoreline. That estimate is based largely on NWS Mobile office Doppler wind data which showed inbound wind speeds exceeding 115 mph in a few volume samples centered at about 9,800 feet above the coast from 1320 to 1400 UTC. The peak 850 mb flight-level wind speed leading up to this time was 106 mph in the northeastern eyewall near 1200 UTC, but subsequent excursions into that part of the hurricane were precluded by the hurricane's close proximity to land.

Doppler velocities decreased by about 17 mph over the following two hours and 86 mph is the estimated maximum surface wind speed when the center of the eye came ashore around 1600 UTC. Hence, the coastal region immediately west of Fort Walton Beach, including Pensacola, experienced Category 1 conditions, though gusts to near 115 mph likely occurred. The FAA system of six anemometers at Pensacola Regional Airport (PNS) registered a maximum 30-second wind speed of about 69 mph. The highest wind speed measured at an official reporting station in the Florida panhandle was an 101-mph gust at the Pensacola Naval Air Station (NPA). Amateur radio operators relayed unofficial observations of gusts near 109 mph to the NHC.

The hurricane's lowest pressure of 973 mb was reported by the Hurricane Hunters near 1330 UTC and again near 1600 UTC on the 3rd. The latter measurement placed the center of Erin near the coast and in the southern part of the eye as seen on surface radar.

1. Storm Surge Data

The Melbourne National Weather Service Office estimated that Erin generated a 2 to 4 foot storm tide during the Florida east coast landfall. Storm tides averaged 1 to 2 feet along the west- central Florida peninsula.
Storm tides were estimated at 6 to 7 feet just west of Navarre Beach and 3 to 4 feet along Pensacola Beach.

2. Rainfall Data

According to the Melbourne office, up to about 12 inches of rain fell southwest through northwest of their site.
Up to about 5 inches of rain was reported from the panhandle.

3. Tornadoes

Several small, brief tornadoes occurred over east- central Florida well after Erin made landfall. One tornado caused minor damage in Titusville. Another occurred near Lake Lizzie, killing two horses. A couple of weak tornadoes were also reported over northeast Florida and in the panhandle near Hurlburt Air Force Base.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

There were 6 deaths attributed to Erin; 6 in Florida.

There were no deaths reported in the Bahamas or in Florida. A total of six deaths occurred in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters off Florida. All drowned. The 234-foot gambling and cruise ship Club Royale sank in the Atlantic 90 miles east of Cape Canaveral and three crew members are presumed dead. A 15-year old surfer drowned in a rip current off Palm Beach County. A man and daughter in an inflatable boat were swept from the Cape San Blas area into the Gulf of Mexico where they presumably drowned.

All Bahamas islands from Mayaguana to Grand Bahama suffered damage characterized by the Bahamas Department of Meteorology as mostly minor. Some structural damage, sunken boats, crop loss and flooding was reported. Losses known to date for Abaco, Grand Bahama, Mayaguana, and Exuma total $400,000.

The American Insurance Services Group estimated $375 Million as the loss to insured property in the United States caused by Erin ($350 Million in Florida, $20 Million in Alabama, and $5 Million in Mississippi). Because the total loss is usually estimated by the NHC to be up to about double the insured loss, the total U.S. loss is tentatively estimated at $700 Million.

Wind damage occurred over east-central and northeast Florida. Thousands of homes and businesses suffered damage in Brevard county. Less significant damage occurred in other counties in the region. Freshwater flooding from rainfall occurred in the Melbourne and Palm Bay areas and westward in some spots to the Florida gulf coast. Beach erosion occurred along the central Florida east coast, with damage mainly to boardwalks, beach accessways and the dune system. Light to moderate beach erosion was also reported northward to the Georgia border. Minor erosion occurred along the west-central Florida coast.

The most significant structural damage for the final landfall occurred on Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach, around Mary Esther and in northeast Pensacola. More than 2,000 homes were damaged there and crop losses were reported. Some beach erosion was reported west of Navarre Beach. Farther inland, about 100 homes were damaged in Alabama. Widespread tree, power line and crop damage extended inland.

Maximum Intensity For Hurricane Erin
28 July - 06 August, 1995

Position Pressure
Wind Speed
Lat. (°N) Lon. (°W)
03/1330 30.0 86.8 973 100 Category 2 Hurricane

Landfall for Hurricane Erin
28 July - 06 August, 1995
Wind Speed
Stage Landfall
02/0615 984 85 Category 1 Hurricane Vero Beach,
03/1600 973 85 Category 1 Hurricane Pensacola Beach,