The season was notable as one of the deadliest and most costly Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, with at least 3,132 deaths and roughly $50 billion (2004 US dollars) in damage. The most notable storms for the season were the five named storms that made landfall in the U.S. state of Florida, three of them with at least 115 mph (185 km/h) sustained winds: Tropical Storm Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. This is the only time in recorded history that four hurricanes affected Florida. Jeanne wreaked havoc in Haiti, killing approximately 3,000 people, while Ivan raged through Grenada, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands; Frances and Jeanne both hit the Bahamas at full force, while Charley caused significant damage in Cuba. Floodwaters in the southeastern United States were brought to near-record levels.
|NOAA||May 17, 2004||12–15||6–8||2–4|
|CSU||May 28, 2004||14||8||3|
|CSU||August 6, 2004||13||7||3|
This season had 16 tropical depressions, 15 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). The Accumulated Cyclone Energy figure of 225 ranks this as the fourth most active season since 1950 (behind the 2005 season, the 1950 season and the 1995 season).
August 2004 was unusually active, with eight named storms forming during the month. In an average year, only three or four storms would be named in August. The formation of eight named storms in August breaks the old record of seven for the month, set in the 1933 and 1995 seasons. It also ties with September in the 2002 and the 2007 seasons for the most Atlantic tropical storms to form in any month.
The 2004 season was very deadly, with over 3,000 deaths related to the flooding rains or winds caused by the storms. Nearly all of the deaths were reported in Haiti following the floods and mudslides caused by then-Tropical Storm Jeanne.
A tropical low in May brought torrential flooding to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, killing 2,000 people and causing great damage. Though it was not officially classified as a tropical storm, it did have a circulation with loosely organized convection, resembling a subtropical cyclone.
The most unusual storm of the season was Hurricane Ivan. Ivan first impressed meteorologists by becoming the first major Atlantic hurricane (Category 3 or above) on record to form as low as 10°N latitude. Ivan was also recorded as the sixth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record up to that point (since pushed down to tenth), with a minimum central pressure of 910 mbar (hPa). One very unusual occurrence in relation to Ivan happened on September 22, when a remnant low from Ivan—which had traveled in a circular motion over the southeastern United States—was reclassified as a tropical depression as it moved over the Gulf of Mexico. The system was given the name Ivan and eventually strengthened into a respectable tropical storm with winds of 65 mph (100 km/h) before making landfall along the coast of Texas, causing minimal flooding and damage.
Alex later headed out to sea and strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane, making it only the second hurricane on record to have reached Category 3 strength north of 38° N latitude, before becoming extratropical over the north Atlantic.
For the official forecasts, see the NHC's archive on Hurricane Alex
Bonnie caused minor to moderate damage across its path. In the southeast United States, the storm caused a tornado outbreak that caused $500,000 (2004 USD) in damage and 3 deaths. In New Brunswick, slick rains from the remnants of Bonnie caused an indirect fatality.
For the official forecasts, see:
On August 13, Charley unexpectedly underwent rapid strengthening, jumping from a Category 2 to a powerful Category 4 storm in a few hours, while at the same time taking a sharp turn to the northeast. Charley made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Punta Gorda, Florida. Although the storm caused serious damage, much of this was limited to a narrow swath associated with the hurricane's eye wall. Charley was a very fast-moving, compact storm, and so much of its damage was attributed to high winds rather than heavy rain, as is the case in most hurricanes. Charley remained a hurricane across the entire Florida peninsula and passed through Orlando and near Daytona Beach. It later made a second landfall near North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on August 14. Charley dissipated near Cape Cod, Massachusetts on August 15.
Charley caused approximately $14 billion in damage to the United States, making it the fourth costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Fifteen deaths were directly attributed to Charley; four in Jamaica, one in Cuba, and ten in Florida.
For the official forecasts, see the NHC's archive on Hurricane Charley
For the official forecasts, see the NHC's archive on Hurricane Danielle
The next morning a reconnaissance aircraft was able to reach the storm. It found no closed circulation, and Earl was reclassified as a tropical wave at 11 a.m. AST on August 16. Remnants of the storm continued across the Caribbean and into Central America, later becoming Tropical Depression 8E and then Hurricane Frank in the Pacific Ocean (the first time since 1996, when Hurricane Cesar became Douglas in the Pacific). Earl caused minor damage to Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
After sitting stationary off the coast of Florida for nearly 24 hours, Frances finally moved onto the coast of Florida in the early hours of September 5. It traveled northwest over land, briefly emerging over the Gulf of Mexico and striking the Florida panhandle. As it passed over Georgia on September 6, it caused heavy rainfall across the southern U.S. Over of rain were recorded in some places in North Carolina and Virginia, causing heavy flooding. Frances was downgraded to a tropical depression and dissipated over Pennsylvania on September 9.
Damage to the United States was approximately $9 billion, making it the 10th costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Most of Hurricane Frances's damage occurred in Florida as a result of the storm's slow movement, large size, and long duration of winds. The storm is directly responsible for seven deaths; one in the Bahamas and six in the United States. Hurricane Frances also produced a record-setting 123 tornadoes as it moved its way through the United States.
For official forecasts, see:
At landfall the storm was originally classified as just shy of hurricane strength. While wind damage in South Carolina was minimal, the slow-moving storm produced five to ten inches (125 to 250 mm) of rain along its path, causing extensive flooding. Gaston moved north over land, weakening to a tropical depression but still bringing torrential rain to central Virginia, where at least eight people were killed in the ensuing floods. The Shockoe Bottom entertainment district near downtown Richmond was devastated by the flooding. Total damage was estimated at about $130 million.
Late on August 30, as Tropical Depression Gaston crossed Chesapeake Bay, its winds strengthened, and it was again classified as a tropical storm. It headed out over the Atlantic and became extratropical on September 1, about 185 miles (300 km) southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
On November 19, after a detailed analysis by the NHC, surface-level winds were determined to be about 75 mph (120 km/h) at landfall, and Gaston was reclassified as a Category 1 hurricane.
For official forecasts, see the NHC's archive on Hurricane Gaston
There were no casualties or reports of major damage caused by Hermine. Locally heavy rain did fall in portions of southern New Brunswick, which received 40–55 mm. Minor basement flooding and street closures were also reported in Moncton, New Brunswick.
For the official forecasts, see the NHC's archive on Tropical Storm Hermine
While moving westward through the Caribbean Sea, Ivan quickly intensified to a Category 5 hurricane. It fluctuated in strength over the next few days, and passed within 30 miles (50 km) of Grand Cayman on September 11. Ivan grazed western Cuba as a Category 5, and moved into the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane turned northward over cooler waters, and made landfall in southern Alabama on September 16 as a 130 mph (210 km/h) hurricane. Ivan weakened rapidly to a tropical depression over Alabama, accelerated to the northeast, and became extratropical over the Delmarva Peninsula on September 18. Ivan's remnants turned to the southeast then southwest, and gradually re-organized over the warm Gulf Stream waters. After crossing southern Florida on September 21 the system regained tropical characteristics over the Gulf of Mexico, and became a tropical storm on September 23 while 140 miles (220 km) south of Louisiana. Ivan moved to the northwest, and reached winds of 60 mph (95 km/h) before making landfall near Cameron, Louisiana. Ivan quickly deteriorated over Texas, and dissipated on September 24.
Hurricane Ivan directly killed 92 people throughout the Caribbean and United States and caused approximately $13 billion in damage to the United States, making it the fifth costliest hurricane in United States history. The hurricane destroyed 90% of Grenada's structures and devastated the island's economy, and destroyed 85% of the buildings on Grand Cayman. The combination of Hurricane Ivan with the previous rains of Frances brought many rivers in the Southeastern U.S. to near-record flood levels. Ivan was the strongest storm of the season, and the only 2004 Atlantic hurricane to reach Category 5 intensity. Its low pressure reading of 910 mbar made it the sixth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record at the time.
For official forecasts see:
For official forecasts, see the NHC's advisory archive on Tropical Depression Ten
After wreaking havoc on Hispaniola, Jeanne struggled to reorganize. However, it eventually began strengthening and headed north. After performing a complete loop over the open Atlantic, it headed westwards, strengthening into a Category 3 hurricane and passing over the islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama in the Bahamas on September 25. Jeanne made landfall later in the day in Florida just 2 miles (3 kilometers) from where Frances had struck 3 weeks earlier. Building on the rainfall of Frances and Ivan, Jeanne brought near-record flood levels as far north as West Virginia and New Jersey before its remnants turned east into the open Atlantic.
Jeanne is blamed for at least 3,006 deaths in Haiti with about 2,800 in Gonaïves alone, which was nearly washed away by floods and mudslides. The storm also caused 7 deaths in Puerto Rico, 18 in the Dominican Republic and at least 4 in Florida, bringing the total number of deaths to at least 3,025. Final property damage in the United States was $6.8 billion, making this the 13th costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
For official forecasts see:
Karl continued strengthening and became a 145 mph (230 km/h) Category 4 hurricane on September 21. It fluctuated in intensity over the next few days, reaching Category 4 strength on two different occasions. It moved steadily northwards, staying hundreds of miles from any land, until it began to weaken and become extratropical over cooler waters. Karl was still of Category 1 strength when it became an extratropical system on September 24 over the northern Atlantic at about 47° N. The extratropical system struck the Faroe Islands two days later with 144 km/h (89 mph) wind gusts.
For official forecasts see the NHC's public advisory archive on Hurricane Karl
At the time, Lisa earned the record for being a named tropical cyclone (i.e., after first reaching Tropical Storm strength) for 11 days before becoming a hurricane. (Hurricane Dennis of 1981 took longer overall but dropped to a tropical wave before regenerating.) However, Hurricane Irene beat this record in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. (Subsequent reevaluation determined that Lisa only became a hurricane on October 2, after 11¾ days as a named cyclone. Its total development time from tropical depression to hurricane, at 12½ days, is second only to Hurricane Josephine of 1990.)
Lisa was a hurricane only briefly, moving over cooler waters and weakening to a tropical storm. It became extratropical early on October 3 while located about 475 miles (760 km) north-northwest of the Azores. It never threatened any land area.
For official forecasts see the NHC's public advisory archive on Hurricane Lisa
On the afternoon of October 8, the low pressure system developed into Tropical Storm Matthew 260 miles (420 km) east-southeast of Brownsville, Texas. Matthew was a minimal tropical storm, and its sustained winds stayed at or near 40 mph (64 km/h) from its naming until landfall on October 10. It became extratropical inland over Louisiana later in the day, and dissipated when it was near El Dorado, Arkansas.
Matthew brought up to 12 inches (300 mm) of rain to southern Louisiana. About a dozen homes were flooded in Terrebonne Parish after a canal levee burst, and streets in St. Bernard Parish were reportedly under 2 feet (60 cm) of water. The remnants of Matthew continued to spin inland and delivered heavy rainfall for at least five more days. No injuries or deaths were reported.
For official forecasts see:
Nicole continued heading generally northeastward over cooler waters and was declared fully extratropical on October 11 while 345 miles (555 km) south-southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Canadian Hurricane Centre continued to issue advisories on, as they called it, post-tropical Storm Nicole (actually a system absorbed by another extratropical low) for another day as it moved closer to land and dropped heavy rainfall on the Maritimes. The low containing the remnants of Nicole finally merged with another larger low-pressure area while in the vicinity of Anticosti Island on October 14. No injuries or deaths were reported.
Since 2002, subtropical storms have been assigned names from the same sequence as tropical storms. Nicole was the first named storm under this dispensation that never achieved tropical status.
For official forecasts, see the NHC's public advisory archive on Subtropical Storm Nicole
For official forecasts, see the NHC's public advisory archive on Tropical Storm Otto
|ACE (104 kt2) – Storm: Accumulated cyclone energy/Atlantic by year|
The tropical storms of 2004 ranked from highest to lowest Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) given to three significant figures. The total for the season was 225. This makes it the fourth most energetic season since 1950.
ACE measures the strength and duration of a tropical cyclone. Hurricane Ivan, because it was such a long lasting and strong Cape Verde-type hurricane, contributed almost one-third of the ACE value for 2004. Ivan had the second-highest ACE of any tropical cyclone recorded in the Atlantic, behind only Hurricane San Ciriaco of 1899.