|Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Hurricane Iris before landfall in Belize|
|Formed||October 4, 2001|
|Dissipated||October 9, 2001|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained:
145 mph (230 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||948 mbar (hPa); 27.99 inHg|
|Damage||$150 million (2001 USD)|
|Areas affected||Windward Islands, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, eastern Mexico|
|Part of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season|
Hurricane Iris was a Category 4 hurricane that devastated Belize in October 2001. It was the eleventh tropical cyclone, ninth named storm, fifth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the second strongest storm of the season behind Hurricane Michelle.
Tropical Depression Eleven formed just southeast of Barbados on October 4. It traveled across the Windward Islands, and was named Tropical Storm Iris while south of Puerto Rico on the 5th. Iris continued to the west and intensified. After passing just south of Jamaica, Iris reached Category 4 hurricane strength. Iris made landfall near Monkey River Town, Belize, on October 9 at Category 4 strength, but weakened rapidly. It dissipated later that day.
At least 49 were killed by Iris, three in the Dominican Republic, four in Guatemala, 22 in Belize, and 19 from the M/V Wave Dancer, a ship that capsized off the Belize coast. Newspapers have reported an additional 30 deaths in Belize, but the government there has only confirmed the 20 deaths from the Wave Dancer. Damage in Belize is reported at $66.2 million (2001 USD, $72.9 million 2006 USD) and total damage is estimated to be $150 million (2001 USD, $165 million 2006 USD).
Meteorological history 
Toward the end of September 2001, a poorly defined tropical wave moved westward across the tropical Atlantic Ocean. It moved through an area of hostile wind shear, caused by a large upper-level low associated with a trough to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles. A few days later, the upper-level low detached from the trough and moved southwestward over the Caribbean Sea. This allowed for the formation of an upper-level ridge, or high pressure area, over the tropical wave. The ridge provided a favorable environment for organization, and subsequently an area of convection increased along the wave axis. As the wave approached the Lesser Antilles, a mid-level circulation formed within the deep convection, and gradually a low-level circulation became more pronounced on satellite imagery; though its low-level circulation was very small and poorly defined, the system organized enough to be classified as Tropical Depression Eleven at 1200 UTC on October 4, while located about 100 mi (160 km) southeast of Barbados. Nine hours after developing, Hurricane Hunters confirmed the formation of the depression.
In the first discussion on the depression, around which time the depression was passing between St. Vincent and St. Lucia, the NHC noted the potential for it to degenerate into a tropical wave if the cyclone maintained its fast forward motion. However, the official forecast was for the depression to gradually intensify, with its movement to the west-northwest under the influence of a strong ridge to its north. Compared to its appearance 24 hours prior, the depression had improved outflow and more distinct convection, although the circulation initially remained very poorly organized. In the hours after its formation, flights by the Hurricane Hunters failed to report a closed circulation, despite its well-organized appearance on satellite imagery. Late on October 5, the Hurricane Hunters reported a circulation with flight-level winds of 74 mph (119 km/h), which was adjusted to a surface intensity of 60 mph (95 km/h); based on the data, the depression was upgraded to Tropical Storm Iris about 155 mi (250 km) south of the southern coast of Puerto Rico. In post-season analysis, the NHC estimated Iris attained tropical storm status about nine hours earlier.
Despite its intensification and well-organized satellite appearance, the circulation remained very poorly defined. One forecaster noted the center as fragile, and that the cyclone could dissipate quickly if it encountered stronger wind shear to its south; however, the official forecast was for Iris to attain hurricane status while passing south of Hispaniola and Jamaica. Its overall appearance did not change significantly, although on October 6 the Hurricane Hunters reported a closed eye, 23 mi (37 km) in diameter, with a stadium effect. Late that day, Iris attained hurricane status just to the southwest of the southern tip of the Dominican Republic. Upon becoming a hurricane, Iris maintained well-established outflow, and the NHC noted land interaction with the Greater Antilles as the only factor impeding further development. After reaching winds of 85 mph (140 km/h) early on October 7, its intensity remained steady for about 24 hours. During that time, its satellite appearance became slightly ragged as its outflow became restricted. By late on October 7, the area of hurricane force winds associated with Iris extended only 25 mi (35 km) from its 16 mi (22 km) wide eye.
Early on October 8 after turning west-southwestward away from the Greater Antilles, Iris began strengthening again. With warm waters and an absence of significant wind shear, it was forecast to intensify further. The NHC predicted peak winds of about 105 mph (165 km/h) before hitting Belize. It rapidly intensified with the favorable conditions, intensifying from 95 mph (150 km/h) to 140 mph (225 km/h) in a 12 hour period on October 8, making Iris a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale; in the same 12 hour period, the minimum central pressure dropped 38 mbar (1.12 inHg). While intensifying, the hurricane developed concentric eyewalls, with an innermost eye having a diameter of 7 mi (11 km). For comparison, the smallest known eye diameter on record for an Atlantic hurricane was about 3 mi (5 km) during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. With Iris having such a small eye, a Hurricane Hunters flight could not deploy a dropsonde into the center of the eye, and shortly after the flight, the innermost eye collapsed as the core paralleled the Honduras coastline just offshore. This resulted in a temporary and slight weakening during an eyewall replacement cycle, and within a few hours Iris re-intensified to attain peak winds of 145 mph (230 km/h) just offshore Belize. At 0200 UTC on October 9, Iris made landfall at peak intensity in Monkey River Town in the southern portion of Belize.
Initially, Hurricane Iris was forecast to remain a tropical cyclone while crossing Central America and for it to re-intensify in the eastern Pacific Ocean; had it done so, it would have retained the name Iris. However, officials noted the potential for the storm to dissipate, due to its small circulation. The hurricane rapidly weakened after moving ashore into the mountainous terrain of Guatemala, and within six hours of landfall the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm. Late on October 9, within sixteen hours of landfall, the tropical cyclone dissipated over extreme southeastern Mexico. As the remnants approached the Pacific Ocean, a new area of convection developed south of the original circulation of Iris. It gradually organized while continuing westward, developing into Tropical Storm Manuel and ultimately lasting until October 18 before succumbing to cooler waters and wind shear.
Over a stretch of four days, sixteen tropical cyclone watches and warnings were issued in association with Iris, including the Dominican Republic, the Cuban provinces of Granma and Santiago de Cuba, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, the Yucatán Peninsula, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. In Belize, where Iris made landfall, a hurricane warning was issued about 23 hours before the storm moved ashore.
The threat from Iris prompted the activation of the Jamaica National Emergency Operations Center. Shelters were opened but were ultimately unused.
In Belize, a state of national emergency was declared on October 8 as Hurricane Iris neared landfall. All emergency response committees were activated to quickly begin recovery efforts. A mandatory evacuation was issued for Stan Creek and Toledo coastal villages and all islands. The main hospital in Belize City was evacuated as a precaution and the city itself was placed under a voluntary evacuation order. Overall, about 80,000 people evacuated their homes in Belize, including many in Belize City. Hurricane Keith struck the nation a year prior, which prepared some citizens. Disaster response teams arrived the day after Iris was projected to make landfall. Pan American Health Organization staff were on standby in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras and were ready to respond to any post-storm disease outbreaks.
On October 8, the Government of Honduras declared a red alert for all northern regions. About 5,000 people in the country evacuated from their homes. To the north of Belize, officials in Mexico evacuated people from fishing villages and closed ports.
Lesser and Greater Antilles 
As Iris was in its development stages, residents as far north as Saint Thomas reported rain and thunderstorms. In the Dominican Republic, Iris dropped around 3 in (76 mm) of rainfall along the coast, forcing 35 families to evacuate their homes after rivers exceeded their banks. The rains triggered a landslide outside of Santo Domingo that destroyed a home, killing a family of three. There was another landslide in the region that injured two people. Iris's passage near Jamaica left two houses destroyed and another two with damaged roofs, causing one injury. Otherwise, damage in the country was minimal.
Nineteen United States citizens were killed as a result of this hurricane. Twenty-seven scuba divers from the Richmond Dive Club – Richmond, Virginia, were anchored at a small dock ninety miles south of Belize City. Half of the Richmond Dive Club were diving off of the live-aboard boat, the Wave Dancer. The strong winds and waves of Hurricane Iris capsized the boat at the port in Big Creek, Belize. Only three members of the Richmond Dive Club survived, and only five members of the Wave Dancer crew survived. The remaining twenty people, both club members and crew, lost their lives. The result was the worst diving accident in United States history.
Family members of the dead allege negligence on the part of the company that chartered the trip, Peter Hughes Diving Co. They claim that the company did not prepare sufficiently for the hurricane, and did not heed the warnings of local officials to abandon ship and move inland. Their story is chronicled in the book "No Safe Harbor: The Tragedy of the Dive Ship Wave Dancer" authored by survivor Joe Burnworth.
Another boat, The Vendera, also reportedly capsized with people on board.
|Wettest tropical cycloneBelize
Highest known recorded totals
|1||829.8||32.67||Keith 2000||Phillip Goodson Int'l Airport|||
|2||546.6||21.52||T.D. #16 2008||Baldy Beacon|||
|4||246.0||9.69||Mitch 1998||Central Farm Meteorological Station|||
|5||241.0||9.49||Gert 1993||Hunting Caye|||
|6||179.0||7.05||Greta 1978||Central Farm Meteorological Station|||
|7||152.4||6.00||Fifi 1974||La Placencia|||
|8||131.0||5.16||Hermine 1980||Central Farm Meteorological Station|||
|10||68.0||2.68||Opal 1995||Central Farm Meteorological Station|||
Hurricane Iris moved ashore in Belize with winds of 145 mph (233 km/h), although the highest measured winds were 106 mph (171 km/h) at a station in Big Creek. Because of its small diameter, Iris only produced heavy damage in a 70 mi (110 km) area of southern Belize. In that vicinity, the hurricane produced a storm surge of up to 15 ft (4.6 m).
A total of 3,718 homes were destroyed by the storm. Nineteen schools were destroyed and 12 others were damaged by Iris; 21 governmental buildings were damaged, including two police stations that were destroyed. All power was lost to the affected regions, costing roughly $1.25 million. Total damages to infrastructure was estimated at $8.15 million. The agricultural sector sustained severe damage and losses. Most livestock were killed during the storm, the shrimping industry lost 25% of their catch and large areas of farmland were inundated by flood waters. Losses in the agricultural industry were estimated at $74.5 million. Twenty-two people were killed by the storm and eight others were listed as missing. Overall damage from the hurricane totaled $140 million.
Elsewhere in Central America 
In Guatemala, high winds and heavy rains, generally amounting to 3 to 4 in (76 to 100 mm), triggered flash flooding and landslides that injured nearly 100 others. There were eight deaths in the country. An estimated 27,500 people were affected by the storm throughout the country. In central Guatemala, 2,500 homes were damaged and along the Belize border, another 1,200 were destroyed.
In both Guatemala and Honduras, high tides and heavy rainfall caused power outages.
On October 9, the Government of Belize issued the "all clear" signal, indicating that the storm had fully passed. Following this, reconstruction efforts and damage assessment began. Although sustaining significant damage, the Government of Guatemala deployed a working team with members from throughout the country to assist in recovery in Belize.
By October 18, the Action by Churches Together International foundation proposed to provide $246,239 in disaster funds to victims of the hurricane.
The name Iris was retired in the spring of 2002 by the World Meteorological Organization and will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. Iris was replaced by Ingrid, which was used in the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season.
See also 
- List of retired Atlantic hurricane names
- Other tropical cyclones named Iris
- List of Category 4 Atlantic hurricanes
- Tropical Storm Harvey (2011)
- Hurricane Richard
- Hurricane Dean
- Hurricane Hattie
- Hurricane Karl (2010)
- Hurricane Alex (2010)
- Lixion A. Avila (2001-10-30). "Hurricane Iris Tropical Cyclone Report". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
- Lixion Avila (2001-10-04). "Tropical Depression Eleven Discussion One". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
- James Franklin (2001-10-04). "Tropical Depression Eleven Discussion Two". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
- Avila/Molleda (2001-10-05). "Tropical Storm Iris Discussion Five". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Lixion Avila (2001-10-06). "Tropical Storm Iris Discussion Eight". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Lixion Avila (2001-10-06). "Hurricane Iris Discussion Nine". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Richard Pasch (2001-10-07). "Hurricane Iris Discussion Eleven". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Lixion Avila (2001-10-07). "Hurricane Iris Discussion Thirteen". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Lixion Avila (2001-10-07). "Hurricane Iris Public Advisory Thirteen". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Miles Lawrence (2001-10-08). "Hurricane Iris Discussion Fourteen". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- James Franklin (2001-10-08). "Hurricane Iris Discussion Sixteen". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Richard J. Pasch, Eric S. Blake, Hugh D. Cobb III, and David P. Roberts (2006). "Hurricane Wilma Tropical Cyclone Report". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- James Franklin (2001-10-31). "Tropical Storm Manuel Tropical Cyclone Report". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (2001-10-12). "Report of the impact of Iris on Jamaica". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2001-10-08). "Caribbean/Belize — Tropical Storm Iris OCHA Situation Report No. 4". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- Pan American Health Organization (2001-10-08). "PAHO Hurricane Iris Situation Report 8 Oct, pm". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "Thousands flee as Hurricane storms Central America, hits Belize". Agence France-Pressepublisher=ReliefWeb. 2001-10-09. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
- World Vision (2001-10-08). "Honduran government declares red alert over Hurricane Iris". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "22 dead or missing new toll in Belize as Hurricane Iris downgraded". ReliefWeb. Agence France-Presse. 2001-10-09. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
- JB Jerdon (2001). "Unofficial Reports from Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands". Stormcarib.net. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- Andres Cala (2001-10-07). "Iris Becomes Hurricane, Picks Up Speed". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- Jan McGirk (October 10, 20001). "Belize hurricane kills 19 tourists on diving holiday". The Independent. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- Beven, Jack (2001-01-29). "Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Keith (28 September - 6 October 2000)". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
- Dan Brown. Tropical Depression Sixteen (2008) Tropical Cyclone Report. Retrieved on 2008-11-26.
- Franklin, James (2001-09-06). "Tropical Storm Chantal Tropical Cyclone Report". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
- Geology. List of Appendices. Retrieved on 2007-04-08.
- Hunting Caye Automatic Weather Station (1993). "Hourly Data during passage of Tropical Storm Gert". Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- National Hurricane Center (1974). "Hurricane Fifi Preliminary Report Page 2". Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- Pan American Health Organization (2001-10-08). "Hurricane Iris Situation Report 3". Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (October 19, 2001). "Hurricane Iris Situation Report #3". ReliefWeb. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- (Spanish) "Desastres naturales". Inter-American Development Bank. 2002-02-14. Retrieved 2011-12-03.
- Action by Churches Together International (October 18, 2001). "ACT appeal Guatemala: Emergency relief to hurricane "Iris" victims- LAGU12". ReliefWeb. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- Action by Churches Together International (October 9, 2001). "ACT Alert Belize — Guatemala: Hurricane Iris". ReliefWeb. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- Government of Belize (October 9, 2001). "Belize commences reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Iris". ReliefWeb. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- Government of Belize (October 18, 2001). "Republic of Guatemala helps". ReliefWeb. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Hurricane Iris|
- NHC Tropical Cyclone Report for Hurricane Iris
- NHC advisory archives for Hurricane Iris
- Plenty Belize Report on Iris