Lili was the sixth category 3 Atlantic hurricane on the Saffir/Simpson hurricane scale during 1996. It moved across central Cuba and the central Bahamas with sustained winds in the 92 to 104 mph range.
a. Synoptic History
A tropical wave moved from Africa to the Atlantic Ocean on
4 October accompanied by a large cyclonic rotation of low clouds and a
mid-tropospheric jet. The wave moved westward under an unfavorable strong
vertical shear environment and, on 11 October, passed through the Windward
Islands where a marked wind shift and large 24-hour pressure changes were
observed. It reached the southwestern Caribbean on the 13th, where a pre-existing
area of low surface pressure was located.
The system developed a well-defined low-level circulation and
became a tropical depression at about 1200 UTC on the 14th, just east
of Nicaragua, and began moving northwestward at about nine mph.
Over the next two days, the depression turned north and then
north-northeastward in response to a weak mid- to upper-level low over
the Gulf of Mexico. Although there appeared to be considerable convective
banding and falling surface pressures, aircraft data showed that the depression
did not strengthen to a storm until early on the 16th, when the center
was close to Swan Island. With a well-established outflow over the circulation,
Lili strengthened to a hurricane on the 17th.
Moving slowly, the center executed a small cyclonic loop just
north of Swan Island on the 16th and wobbled again on the 17th as it approached
the Isle of Youth, Cuba. The center passed over the eastern side of the
Isle of Youth near 0100 UTC on the 18th and made landfall on the south
coast of mainland Cuba in Matanzas Province at 0930 UTC. The maximum sustained
surface winds had strengthened to near 98 mph
at landfall as Lili turned eastward for a twelve-hour crossing of central
Cuba on the 18th.
A major trough in the westerlies moved to the eastern United
States as Lili approached Cuba and this resulted in the hurricane accelerating
mostly northeastward to a forward speed of near 29 mph by late on the
The hurricane maintained its strength over Cuba. The pressure
was measured by aircraft at 975 millibars just before landfall and the
same pressure was measured again when the eye moved back over water. Accelerating
toward the Bahamas, there was further strengthening and Lili went through
the central Bahamas early on the 19th with sustained winds of near 104
mph. The eye, 30 to 40 nautical miles wide, moved over Great Exuma
and San Salvador and the eye wall affected portions of Long Island, Rum
Cay, and Cat Island.
Shortly thereafter, at 0000 UTC on the 20th and just east of
the Bahamas, the hurricane reached its peak strength, with an estimated
115-mph maximum sustained wind and a central surface
pressure of 960 mb. This is a category 3 on the Saffir/Simpson hurricane
intensity scale and Lili is the sixth category 3 or higher hurricane in
the Atlantic basin in 1996.
Lili continued moving northeastward, its center passing about
130 nautical miles southeast of Bermuda on the 20th. By now, the strongest
winds were on the southeast side of the center and Lili's sustained winds
did not reach tropical storm force. Lili's winds gradually decreased from
the 115-mph maximum on the 20th to 75
mph on the 21st.
On the 22nd, having turned eastward, the forward motion decelerated
to almost stationary as a mid-level short-wave high pressure ridge came
into longitudinal phase with Lili. Lili drifted erratically eastward across
the central north Atlantic until the 24th, when another acceleration toward
the northeast began. Lili reintensified to 98 mph on the 25th and finally weakened to a tropical
storm on the 26th, as the center was passing about 300 nautical miles
northwest of the Azores. Lili is estimated to have become extratropical
on the 27th. It remained a 63-mph extratropical storm until crossing Great
Britain on the 28th. Its remnants crossed the northern European mainland
on the 29th.
b. Meteorological Statistics
Aircraft data is from eleven aircraft reconnaissance missions
into Lili over a five-day period, from the 15th to the 20th, resulting
in 37 center penetrations. Seven of the missions were performed by the
U.S. Air Force Reserve Unit out of Keesler AFB, Mississippi. The other
four missions were performed by the NOAA research aircraft when Lili's
center was near Cuba. The maximum wind speed measured by aircraft was
129 mph at the 700 mb level, at 0855 UTC on the
19th in the southeast quadrant. The minimum surface pressure from the
aircraft was 960 millibar at 1218 UTC on the 19th.
The highest sustained wind from Cuba was a 10-minute average
of 92 mph reported from Cayo Largo del Sur, an
island located about 50 nautical miles east of the Isle of Youth. The
center was over mainland Cuba and about 40 nautical miles north of the
island at the time of the report. An 92-mph 10-minute
wind was also reported from San Salvador in the central Bahamas at the
time that the center was located about 15 nautical miles to its north-northwest.
Sustained wind speeds to about 52 mph with gusts to as high as 90 mph (from Alderney, a Channel island) were reported from Great Britain, when Lili was extratropical, on the 28th and 29th.
1. Rainfall Data
There was heavy rainfall over portions of Cuba with over 26
inches accumulated at La Moza.
c. Casualty and Damage Statistics
There were 10 deaths attributed to Lili; 5 in Honduras, 3
in Costa Rica and 2 in Great Britain.
In Cuba, there was extensive damage to agriculture and thousands
were made homeless according to Reuters news. Reuters also reported that
six were killed in Great Britain from Lili as an extratropical storm.
Four died in traffic accidents and two fishermen were swept into the sea.
In the Bahamas, reports from Georgetown on Great Exuma island suggest that many houses were substantially damaged and many boats were sunk. A storm tide of 15 feet above mean sea level was estimated on the north side of Great Exuma.
Maximum Intensity For Hurricane Lili