Georges: The Diary of a Storm
September 15, 1998
A tropical weather system emerges in the waters off the West
African coast, some 650 km southwest of the Cape Verde Islands.
It is classified as Tropical Depression 7.
The system becomes more intense. It is upgraded and named Tropical
The system intensifies, becoming Hurricane Georges, the fourth
hurricane of the 1998 season. It is now 2100 km east of the
A reconnaissance aircraft is sent to
the system to measure wind speeds and atmospheric pressure.
The winds are clocked at 240 km per hour, atmospheric pressure
at 938 millibars. Georges is now a powerful Category 4 hurricane.
Hurricane Georges runs into unfavorable conditions. A wind shear,
which is a radical shift in wind speed and direction over a
very short distance, is breaking up the symmetry of the cyclone.
Georges has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane and is now 940
km southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Georges greets the day some 120 km east of St. Croix,
U.S. Virgin Islands. It has found warmer waters and the wind
shear has disappeared. The winds can now circulate unimpeded
around the eye of the storm. Georges has strengthened, and at
5:30 p.m. it is upgraded to Category 3. At 6 p.m. the eye is
just off the east coast of Puerto Rico. At 7 p.m. the eye touches
land in the area of Humacao / Yabucoa, along the island's southeast
coast. Many severe hurricanes over the centuries have entered
here. Georges' winds are clocked at 184 kph. Its gusts rise
up to 240 kph. Atmospheric pressure is 967 mb. The diameter
of the eye is between 32 and 40 km wide. The hurricane passes
over the island just to the south of the Cordillera Central,
the island's central mountains. Intense thunderstorms, very
heavy rains, and occasional tornadoes accompany the eye as it
moves across the island at around 24 km per hour. At 8 p.m.
the eye is 32 km southwest of San Juan, where almost half of
Puerto Rico's population lives.
At 1 a.m. the eye leaves Puerto Rico to the west-southwest of
Mayag˙ez, Puerto Rico's largest, west coast city.
SAN JUAN. September 22, 1998
Hurricane Georges was the most destructive hurricane to strike
Puerto Rico since Hurricane San Ciprian hit in 1932.
Hurricane Trackers: High
Risk, High Reward. U.S.
military aircraft, commanded by pilots with incredible
nerve, have been flying into hurricanes since the mid-1940s.
Once inside, they measure wind velocity and direction,
the location and size of the eye, atmospheric pressure
within the storm, and its thermal structure. In the mid-1950s,
a coordinated system of tracking hurricanes was developed,
and it has greatly reduced the element of surprise, something
no one wants from a hurricane. Radar, sea-based recording
devices, weather satellites (since the mid-1960s), and
other technologies now send crucial information to the
National Hurricane Center in Florida. Scientists there
specialize in watching storms in great detail, from the
moment of their creation. Modern technology has helped
to minimize the loss of life in a hurricane, but with
the growth of populations in coastal regions, property
damage continues to rise.
- Describe how information about hurricanes is collected.
- Why does the category of Hurricane Georges change during its path to Puerto Rico? What category is it when
it hits land?
- What types of damage would you expect of Hurricane George based on your answer to Question 2?