Hurricane Bertha (1996)
Hurricane Bertha at peak intensity
|Formed||July 5, 1996|
|Dissipated||July 18, 1996|
|(extratropical after July 14, 1996)|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained:
115 mph (185 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||960 mbar (hPa); 28.35 inHg|
|Damage||$335 million (1996 USD)|
|Areas affected||Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, North Carolina, Mid-Atlantic States, New England|
|Part of the 1996 Atlantic hurricane season|
Hurricane Bertha was an intense and early-forming major hurricane that affected areas from the Leeward Islands to the United States in July of the 1996 Atlantic hurricane season. The second tropical cyclone and named storm during the season, Bertha originated from a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa in early July. Steadily organizing while moving generally towards the west, the disturbance was designated as a tropical depression at 0000 UTC on July 5, and was further upgraded to a tropical storm by 1200 UTC later that day. Over the next few days, continued intensification occurred, and Bertha became a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, the first hurricane of the season, prior to moving through the northern Leeward Islands. Late on June 8, a period of rapid intensification began, and at 0600 UTC on July 9, Bertha reached its peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) with a minimum barometric pressure of 960 mbar (28 inHg). Moving around the western periphery of the subtropical ridge, Bertha passed north of the Bahamas as a weakening hurricane before turning towards the north-northeast and undergoing another period of rapid intensification. Late on July 12, Bertha made landfall between Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina and Topsail Beach, North Carolina with winds of 90 mph (140 km/h). Gradual weakening ensued the following day as Bertha moved up the Mid-Atlantic and into New England before becoming an extratropical cyclone on July 14.
As Bertha passed through the northern Leeward Islands, it caused moderate to severe damage. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, heavy rainfall, hurricane-force winds, and significant property damage was reported. In addition, many boats were destroyed, and total damage was estimated near $7.5 million (1996 USD). In Puerto Rico, effects from Bertha were very similar to those in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Heavy rainfall was recorded, peaking over half a foot in isolated areas. Despite this, reports of widespread inland flooding were scarce. Tropical storm-force winds were observed, which is the cause of two indirect fatalities, when they were killed in a traffic accident. One death was directly attributed to Bertha when a tourist drowned in rough seas in Luquillo, Puerto Rico. Damage in Puerto Rico was also estimated to be near $7.5 million. The most devastating effects from the hurricane occurred in the United States, more specifically the state of North Carolina. Several fishing piers, marinas, and boats were destroyed as a result of Bertha's storm surge, and buildings across the eastern portion of the state were significantly damaged. Moderate rainfall spread across much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast as Bertha moved towards the north, along with winds in excess of tropical storm force. In total, twelve fatalities were caused by Hurricane Bertha, primarily in Florida from rough seas.
On July 1, a tropical wave emerged off of the coast of Africa. On July 3, a weak low-level circulation developed while located 500 miles (800 km) south of Cape Verde. The disturbance moved westward, and on July 5, it strengthened into a tropical depression in the central Atlantic. The depression tracked westward across the open waters of the Atlantic along the western periphery of a subtropical ridge. Later that day, the depression was upgraded to a tropical storm. Over the next three days, Bertha tracked west-northwest while gradual intensification was occurring. On July 7, Tropical Storm Bertha was upgraded to a hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph (120 km/h) while east of Guadeloupe.
The next day, the center of circulation passed over Antigua as Bertha traversed the extreme northeastern portion of the Caribbean Sea causing moderate to minor damages. After that, Bertha passed rapidly in the southern portion of Sint Maarten, 10 months after Hurricane Luis ravaged the island as a strong category 1 hurricane causing moderate damage to homes,and uprooted trees, sunk boats. Pressure fall to 985 mb and gust over 75 mph (120 km/h) in the Princess Juliana Airport. The storm gradually turned to the northwest on July 9 as maximum sustained winds reached 100 knots (190 km/h) while located 120 miles (190 km) northwest of Puerto Rico. Because the highest winds were located on the northeastern portion of the circulation, Puerto Rico received only tropical storm force winds near 50 mph. Forward speed slowed to 15 mph (25 km/h) as Bertha passed within 60 miles (100 km) of the Turks and Caicos, just before reaching its peak intensity.
Continuing its gradual turn, the track soon became north-northwest as the forward speed slowed further to 10 mph (16 km/h) on July 10 and July 11. On July 12, Bertha made landfall between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Beach. Bertha lost hurricane intensity just after landfall. It then accelerated to the northeast along the East Coast of the United States, producing winds of up to 60 mph (100 km/h). It moved north, and lost all of its tropical characteristics by July 18.
U.S. Virgin Islands
In the United States Virgin Islands, rainfall from Bertha peaked at 3.28 in (83.3 mm) on St. Thomas. Winds from the storm were reported to be sustained at 85 mph (140 km/h) with an unofficial reading of 100 mph (155 km/h). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported that 1,415 homes were damaged, of which 43 lost their roofs. Two boats were destroyed, five were grounded, and nine others washed ashore. One injury occurred in Coral Bay as a man rode out the storm in his sailboat. Damages from the storm were estimated at $7.5 million (1996 USD).
The maximum rainfall reported in association with Bertha was 8.17 inches (208 mm) along the Rio Icacos in Naguabo. Wind reports from the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base on July 8 indicated a maximum sustained wind of 44 mph (71 km/h). Although heavy rain did occur, there was no widespread or significant inland flooding reported. There were, however, several reports of swollen rivers which caused some minor flooding of low lying and urban areas; coastal flooding was reported from Carolina to Loiza along road 187. In addition, recorded rainfall at the LMM Airport was 1.56 inches (40 mm).
One death is attributed to Hurricane Bertha; a tourist drowned while surfing in high seas at the Playa Azul beach area in Luquillo. Two other deaths occurred indirectly as a result of Bertha, when two people were killed in a traffic accident while tropical storm force winds were occurring. The hardest hit area was the municipality of Culebra, where most of the damage was to agriculture and commerce. However, because damages were minimum, none of the municipalities were declared disaster areas. The Housing Department estimated damages to homes at $410,000 (1996 USD). The agricultural damages were estimated at $6 million (1996 USD) in the San Juan, Caguas, and Ponce Regions, mostly wind damage to coffee, plantain, and banana crops. In all, it is estimated that $7.5 million (1996 USD) in damage in Puerto Rico were attributed to Bertha.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean
On Antigua, the storm brought sustain winds of 35 mph (56 km/h) and gusts up to 60 mph (97 km/h). Damage throughout the country of Antigua and Barbuda was regarded as generally minor, limited to mainly 10 homes. Electricity was restored by July 9. The Bahamas and the north coast of the Dominican Republic likely suffered light damage, though no damage figures are available for either.
Southeastern United States
In Florida, a man was caught in rip currents offshore Jacksonville Beach and drowned. Further south, swells also lashed the coasts of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties. Throughout the area, beach patrols and lifeguards made dozens of rescues. Two other people drowned from rip currents in separate incidents at an unguarded section of Miami Beach. Additional fatality occurred in the state after a military jet evacuating the storm crashed into a house.
When Bertha made landfall between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Beach, North Carolina, it brought a storm surge of 8–10 feet (2.4–3 m) to the coast of the state. Several fishing piers and marinas were destroyed along with numerous boats. A few locations reported sustained hurricane force winds, including 89 mph (143 km/h) at Frying Pan Shoals, 81 mph (130 km/h) at the New River, 78 mph (126 km/h) in Topsail Beach, and 77 mph (124 km/h) in North Topsail Beach. Several locations recorded hurricane force wind gust, with the highest being 116 mph (187 km/h) at Frying Pan Shoals. Tropical storm force winds were observed throughout much of eastern North Carolina.
In Onslow County, 199 structures were destroyed, of which 117 were mobile homes. In New Hanover County, 1,750 buildings sustained damage. In Kure Beach, near where Bertha made landfall, 3 homes had their roofs blown off and all structures in the area were damaged. Losses in New Hanover reached about $19 million. In Pender County, 40 homes were undermined by beach erosion and four were destroyed. Damages in the county were estimated at $14.5 million. Agricultural losses in Wayne, Wilson, and Johnston Counties were estimated at $21 million.
Mid-Atlantic and New England
In southern Vermont, rainfall was generally 3 to 5 inches (76 to 127 mm). Several roads and streams were flooded throughout the region, including low-lying areas adjacent to the Hoosic River in Bennington County. Strong winds downed water-laden tree branches onto wires, causing scattered power outages across the area. Further north, dirt roads around Ludlow were washed out and a mudslide was reported on Route 14 near Royalton. In New Hampshire, precipitation totals included 4.5 inches (110 mm) in Derry, 4.2 inches (110 mm) in Milfold, 3.5 inches (89 mm) in East Derry, 3 inches (76 mm) in Manchester, and 2.77 inches (70 mm) in Jaffrey. A combination of gusty winds and rainfall caused scattered power outages.
Impact from the storm in Maine was minor. A total of 4.11 inches (104 mm) of rain fell in Poland, while some areas experienced more than 6 inches (150 mm). Some ditch erosion, inundation of low lying areas, streets, and basement flooding occurred. Power outages were reported in Lewiston and some adjacent towns. Route 219 was left impassable in Oxford County due to flooding in several locations. Overflowing streams inundated several streets in Abbot. Two bridges were damaged in Anson. Many roads in the Camden area were washed out. Two people were injured when the car they were riding in struck a 600 lb (270 kg) boulder, which had fallen onto the roadway because of the heavy rains. In the Castine area, streams that overflowed their banks flooded roadways. Minor flooding occurred along the Kennebec River in Kennebec County.
Shortly after becoming extratropical, the remnants of Bertha entered Canada through New Brunswick. In the southern portions of the province, the storm dropped 2.7 to 3.5 inches (69 to 89 mm) of rain, causing minor flooding. In Quebec, 6.88 inches (175 mm) on rainfall fell in Iles de la Madeleine, which was the highest precipitation total in Canada associated with the storm. The remnants of Bertha proceeded to move over Prince Edward Island. There, winds reached 42 mph (68 km/h), which caused power outages at 100 homes in Wood Islands and felled trees. Further south in Nova Scotia, the storm produced winds of 43 to 50 mph (69 to 80 km/h). As a result, widespread power outages were reported in Amherst, Antigonish, Bedford, Halifax, Wolfville, Truro, and Yarmouth. Other outages occurred tree branches fell and telephone were ignited. During the late hours of July 14 and early on July 15, the remnants of Bertha moved across Newfoundland. Up to 3.97 inches (101 mm) of rain fell near St. John's. Due to wet conditions and strong winds, officials of the annual Corner Brook Triathlon cancelled the bicycling portion of the event.
- Other storms of the same name
- Hurricane Fran
- Hurricane Irene
- List of North Carolina hurricanes (1980–present)
- List of New Jersey hurricanes
- Miles B. Lawrence (1996). "Hurricane Bertha Tropical Cyclone Report". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- "Virgin Islands Event Report". National Climatic Data Center. 1996. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
- National Climatic Data Center (1996). "Puerto Rico Event Report for Hurricane Bertha". Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- National Climatic Data Center (1996). "Puerto Rico Event Report for Hurricane Bertha". Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- National Climatic Data Center (1996). "Puerto Rico Event report for Hurricane Bertha". Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- "Caribbean Hurricane Bertha, DHA-Geneva Information Report No 3, 9 July 1996". UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (ReliefWeb). July 9, 1996. http://reliefweb.int/report/barbados/caribbean-hurricane-bertha-dha-geneva-information-report-no-3-9-july-1996. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- Grant W. Goodge (PDF). Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena: July 1996 (Report). National Climatic Data Center. http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/orders/IPS-A62EC001-4189-4F7C-9BD6-57DD71CD8214.pdf. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- Wayne Cotterly (1996) (PDF). Hurricanes & Tropical Storms (Report). p. 90. http://www.pivot.net/~cotterly/hurricane.PDF. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- 1996-Bertha (Report). Environment Canada. September 14, 2010. http://www.ec.gc.ca/hurricane/default.asp?lang=En&n=F78C7ED6-1. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hurricane Bertha (1996).|
- NHC Hurricane Bertha Preliminary Report
- NWS Service Assessment
- NOAA North Carolina hurricanes: Bertha