Hurricane Roxanne 1995

Preliminary Report
Hurricane Roxanne
07 - 21 October 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)

Roxanne was the first October hurricane that formed and reached Category 3 intensity on the Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS) in the western Caribbean Sea since Hurricane Hattie (Category 4) in October 1961. After hitting the Yucatan peninsula, Roxanne meandered in the Bay of Campeche for several days causing death and destruction along the coast of Mexico from the States of Yucatan through Campeche and Tabasco.


a. Synoptic History

Roxanne formed from a complex combination of several synoptic-scale features (a broad low-pressure area, a tropical wave and an upper trough) which interacted over the western Caribbean. Formation of tropical cyclones from this combination has been commonly observed in the western Caribbean during previous decades, (e.g., 1930, 1940).

As early as 6 October, radiosonde data from the western Caribbean indicated a broad well-established low- to middle-level cyclonic circulation with cloudiness and showers between the Cayman Islands and Honduras. A distinct tropical wave, tracked from the coast of Africa on 26 September, became convectively active over the central Caribbean on 4 October. The wave reached the western Caribbean early on the 7th and interacted with the pre-existing area of disturbed weather. A slow-westward moving upper-level trough was at that time located over the Windward Passage, to the east of an upper-level anticyclone centered over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico and left by Hurricane Opal. This combination of the high and the trough aloft resulted in diffluent northerly winds over the low-level disturbance.

On 6 October, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) surface analysis showed a broad 1004 mb low not too far from the east coast of Nicaragua. Associated winds were only 12 to 17 mph. Satellite images indicated a gradual increase in organization and cloud banding features began to develop early on the 7th as the tropical wave reached the area. It is estimated that the system became a tropical depression at 1800 UTC 7 October just east of Nicaragua. The next day, a reconnaissance plane confirmed the presence of a tropical depression with a pressure center of 1004 mb and 35 mph winds. Satellite images and surface observations indicated a steady intensification. The depression became Tropical Storm Roxanne at 0000 UTC 9 October and a hurricane by 0600 on the 10th. During that period, data from reconnaissance planes indicated that the pressure dropped to 989 mb and by 1200 UTC on the 10th the pressure was down to 972 mb. Prior to intensification, the low-level center was located on the northern edge of the deep convection due to the northerly winds produced by the upper high over the Gulf of Mexico. However, the upper trough previously located over the Windward Passage became a cut-off low and moved west-southwest into Central America. This allowed the outflow to become established in all quadrants.

Initially, Roxanne was a threat to Cuba and the Cayman Islands as it moved northward in response to a weak trough over Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The trough moved eastward and was replaced by a high pressure system. Roxanne turned northwestward and then westward toward the Yucatan peninsula and intensified. A similar abrupt change in motion, not expected by climatology, was taken by Hurricane Hattie in 1961.

During the early afternoon of the 10th, a well-defined eye became apparent on satellite images. Roxanne reached its maximum intensity of 115 mph and a minimum pressure of 956 mb about 2152 UTC just to the southeast of Cozumel.

Roxanne made landfall just north of Tulum, on the mainland, Mexico just to the southwest of Cozumel about 0200 UTC 11 October. The hurricane continued westward over the Yucatan peninsula and emerged over the Gulf of Campeche as a minimal hurricane. It then temporarily weakened to tropical storm status. Once the center of circulation was completely over the waters, the tropical cyclone regained hurricane intensity and maintained that status for about 60 hours. It gradually weakened to a tropical storm and then to a tropical depression.

The steering currents were weak when Roxanne was in the Bay of Campeche. Consequently, the hurricane meandered within an area of less than 250 nautical miles for almost a week. During that period, several shortwave troughs and ridges rapidly passed by to the north of Roxanne, forcing the tropical cyclone to swing either southeastward or northwestward. Feeder bands and waves of 15 to 20 feet were pounding the coastal section from the State of Campeche to Veracruz throughout that time. Eventually, Roxanne was forced to move southward into the area near Veracruz by an approaching strong cold front. The remnants of the tropical cyclone moved southwestward into Mexico.

b. Meteorological Statistics

The maximum intensity occurred about 2152 UTC 10 October when a reconnaissance plane measured 956 mb and wind of 131 mph at the 700 mb level. Information provided by the Servicio Meteorologico de Mejico indicated that an automatic station near Merida reported sustained winds of 75 mph with gusts to 125 mph at 1900 UTC 11 October.

Very interesting observations were collected by Mr. Dan Hartman during the passage of Roxanne. He was located at 20 deg 30'N 86 deg 57'W, (southwest of Cozumel and along the coast of Yucatan). Pressure was measured with a HUGER mercury barometer. Wind speed was obtained from a Rainwise wind speed/direction receiver located on the roof of Mr. Hartman's home which is the top floor of a two story dwelling. The rain gauge is an All-Weather made to "U.S Weather Bureau specifications" and was located on the roof in an unobstructed location. The Log and Comments of Mr. Hartman are:

1. Rainfall Data

A weather station in Veracruz reported nearly 12 inches of rain and the Tabasco Observatory reported 9.5 inches. The other reports from the region affected by Roxanne indicate that the rainfall totals were of only one or two inches there.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

There were 14 deaths attributed to Roxanne; 14 in Mexico.

Mixed reports of damage have been received at the NHC. The death toll so far is 14 according to the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 20 October, 1995. U.S. Coast Guard, a C-130 reconnaissance plane investigating Roxanne and Mexican helicopters searched for people missing from a petroleum work-barge that sank with 245 people on board. Five of these 14 deaths appear to be related to this event including one American. According to Mexican authorities, more than 40,000 homes were damaged by Roxanne in the States of Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco Veracruz and Yucatan. Numerous crops were damaged, cattle drowned and roads were washed out or blocked by mud and rock slides. The road between the City of Carmen and Campeche was completely destroyed. Thousands of people were evacuated. There are unconfirmed reports that many hotel lobbies in Cancun and Cozumel were damaged from pounding waves. Extensive tree damage was observed in Cozumel. Storm tides and swollen rivers caused the worst flooding in Campeche and Tabasco since 1927. It appears the worst damage was produced by the pounding of 15 to 20 foot waves along the shore for several days. The waters from the Gulf of Mexico surged hundred of yards inland.

This area had previously been affected by Hurricane Opal a week or two before and it is difficult to separate the damage caused by Opal and Roxanne. Best estimate of the combined damage in the Yucatan peninsula is $1.5 Billion, according to insurance company estimates.

Maximum Intensity For Hurricane Roxanne
07 - 21 October, 1995

Position Pressure
Wind Speed
Lat. (°N) Lon. (°W)
10/2152 20.0 86.7 956 115 Category 3 Hurricane

Landfall for Hurricane Roxanne
07 - 21 October, 1995
Wind Speed
Stage Landfall
11/0200 958 115 Category 3 Hurricane Tolum,