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Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Meteorologists can predict, with increasing certainty, tropical storm development and paths of travel, however it is not a perfect science.  Lee County is about 150 miles inland, however that doesn’t mean we won’t see impacts from hurricanes as they move inland.  In fact, although never hit directly by the eye of a hurricane, we have been hit directly by:

Lee County has been hit directly by three Tropical Depressions

  • Allison (2001)
  • Hanna (2002)
  • Frances (2004)

Lee County has had a near miss (eye hit within 50 nm; the directional indicator next to each storm shows where Lee County was in relation to the storm)

  •  Hurricanes
    • Opal (1995) E
    • Ivan (2004) E
  • Tropical Storms
    • Helene (2000) W
  • Tropical Depressions
    • Jerry (1995) W
    • Danny (1997) E & N
    • Bill (2003) NE
    • Barry (2001) E
    • Jeanne (2004) W
    • Tammy (2005) S
    • Cindy (2005) E
    • Fay (2008) SE
    • Lee (2011) SE
Hurricanes have a significant impact on inland areas.  While we won’t see the storm surge or peak winds that our coastal counties will see, we still have life-threatening weather concerns to deal with.  The primary threats we will face are:

Winds: Sustained winds in excess of 60 mph are not uncommon this far inland.  While severe thunderstorms typically produce winds of this magnitude, it is typically short lived.  Hurricane winds may last hours, and coupled with heavy rainfall, trees and other low wind-load structures may come down.

Thunderstorms: Especially significant if you are on the northeast and east side of the storm system, thunderstorms, or rain bands as they are called, often produce high winds, heavy rainfall and small, spin up tornadoes.  The high winds come from the forward speed of storm system plus the rotational speed of the system.     The tornadoes also come from the rotation of those rain bands and movement of the system.

Flooding: These tropical systems bring with them excessive rains to the area.  In fact inland flooding is the number one killer among tropical storm system.  Many times these storms will move in and set up in a particular location while they interact with other weather phenomena, and when they do, they can drop heavy rains for hours in a specific area causing flooding and mudslides.    

How are hurricanes measured?

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Scale Number (Category) Sustained Winds (MPH) Expected Damage Storm Surge
1 74-95 Minimal: Un-anchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs. 4-5 feet
2 96-110 Moderate: All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, flooding. 6-8 feet
3 111-130 Extensive: Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off. 9-12 feet
4 131-155 Extreme: Roofs destroyed, trees down, roads cut off, mobile homes destroyed. Beach homes flooded. 13-18 feet
5 More than 155 Catastrophic: Most buildings destroyed. Vegetation destroyed. Major roads cut off. Homes flooded. Greater than 18 feet