|Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Hurricane Michelle at peak intensity on November 3|
|Formed||October 29, 2001|
|Dissipated||November 6, 2001 (Became extratropical on November 5)|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained:
140 mph (220 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||933 mbar (hPa); 27.55 inHg|
|Fatalities||17 direct, 26 missing|
|Damage||$2 billion (2001 USD)|
|Areas affected||Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Isle of Youth, Cuba, Florida, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bermuda|
|Part of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season|
Hurricane Michelle was the thirteenth named storm and the strongest tropical cyclone of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. Michelle developed from a tropical wave that moved across the Atlantic, and formed into Tropical Depression Fifteen on the October 29. The depression slowly intensified as forming, and became Tropical Storm Michelle on November 1. It strengthened more, until reaching its peak strength as a Category 4. One of only five November Category 4 hurricanes, Michelle made landfall on south-central Cuba with winds of 140 mph (225 km/h), the strongest Cuban landfall since Hurricane Fox in the 1952 season.
The hurricane brought torrential rains across its path from Central America through the Greater Antilles, especially in the countries of Cuba and Honduras. In total, Michelle caused 17 fatalities and $2 billion (2001 USD; $2.59 billion 2013 USD) in damage. As a result of the severe effects, the name Michelle was retired following the season.
Meteorological history 
A tropical wave moved off of the west coast of Africa on October 16. The tropical wave moved across the open Atlantic, and reached the Lesser Antilles on October 23. Still a weak tropical wave, shower activity increased on October 26, when the wave was located in the Caribbean. At this time, a broad low-pressure area developed near the coast of Nicaragua. A gradual strengthening period began, and a Hurricane Hunters aircraft had found that the tropical wave had intensified to a tropical depression on October 29.
The depression meandered over Nicaragua for 36 hours. A north-northeastward track that began early on October 31 brought the center back over the Caribbean waters later that day near Cabo Gracias a Dios on the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. The system strengthened and was named Tropical Storm Michelle on November 1, to the north of Cabo Gracias. Michelle moved slowly north-northwestward on November 1 and steadily intensified. It became a hurricane on November 2 while it tracked slowly northward. Rapid intensification then occurred. The central pressure fell from 988 millibars (29.2 inHg) on November 2 to 937 millibars (27.7 inHg) on the November 3 – a decrease of 51 millibars (1.5 inHg) in about 29 hours. Michelle turned slowly north-northeastward after November 3, while some fluctuations in intensity occurred. It reached a peak intensity of 140 mph (225 km/h) on November 4 while accelerating northeastward. This motion brought the center of Michelle to the off the southwest shore of Cuba, that day as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale, and to the Cuban mainland near the Bay of Pigs about five hours later. Michelle's circulation was disrupted by Cuba's landmass. It then accelerated northeastward through the Bahamas. The center moved off the coast of Cuba, passed over Andros Island, and over Eleuthera Island. Michelle became a vigorous extratropical cyclone on November 6, and the center could be followed for another 18 hours before being absorbed into a strong cold front.
On November 1, as a result of the formation of Michelle, a hurricane watch was issued for Western Cuba. On November 2, a tropical storm watch was issued for Grand Cayman Island, and a hurricane watch was issued for Cuba. On November 3, a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch were issued for Florida Keys, and the hurricane watch was upgraded to hurricane warning Western and Central Cuba including provinces from Pinar Del Rio to Ciego de Avila and the Isle of Youth. On November 4, a tropical storm warning was issued for Florida's east coast from Jupiter Inlet to Ocean Reef and Florida west coast south of Bonita Beach. A tropical storm warning was issued in the Cayman Islands. A hurricane warning was issued for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas including Florida Bay. The hurricane watch was upgraded to hurricane warning for Northwestern and Central Bahamas including Grand Bahama, the Abacos, the Berry Islands, Bimini, Andros, New Providence, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Exumas, San Salvador, Rum Cay, and Long Island. On November 5, a Hurricane watch was issued Bermuda. A gale warning issued Florida east coast from Cocoa Beach to Jupiter Inlet.
(In millions USD)
As the tropical wave that would become Michelle was drifting through the western Caribbean Sea, it produced torrential rainshowers on the island of Jamaica. When the hurricane passed to the northwest, it brought more rainfall, with the highest amount measured 1,058 millimetres (41.7 in). Many other locations across the island recorded over 15 inches (380 mm), resulting in widespread mudslides and moderate property damage, killing 2 people. Many roads were blocked, and numerous houses were either damaged or destroyed. Damage on Jamaica totaled to $18 million (2001 USD, $19.1 million 2006 USD).
Central America 
As Tropical Depression Fifteen was drifting over Central America, it dropped torrential rains, forcing over 100,000 people from their homes from Panama through Honduras. In Honduras, the deadly flooding led to overflown rivers and mudslides, cutting off around 100 villages in the department of Gracias a Dios from the rest of the country. Bridges, roads, and houses were destroyed across the coastal areas of Central America, with extensive corn and bean crop damage, affecting millions. In areas where the rain was not extreme, the precipitation was welcome to farmers, helping to end a severe drought that had been in place all year. Other drought areas denounced the extreme flooding that destroyed the rest of their crops. Though south of where the depression came ashore, Costa Rica experienced flooding in the north part of the country, forcing thousands to evacuate.
Michelle was responsible for 10 deaths in Honduras and 4 deaths in Nicaragua, with an extensive amount of damage. An additional 62 people were reported missing in Central America. The areas most affected by the storm coincided with the areas ravaged by Hurricane Mitch almost exactly three years prior.
Cayman Islands 
Hurricane Michelle brought heavy surf, storm surge, and flooding in the Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman experienced about $28 million in damage, mostly along the west coast. No casualties were reported.
In Cuba, about 750,000 people and 741,000 animals were evacuated prior to the hurricane's arrival. Hurricane Michelle quickly crossed the island as a Category 4 hurricane, the strongest since 1952's Hurricane Fox. To the south of Cuba, Cayo Largo del Sur received a 9–10 foot storm surge, inundating the entire island with water. Closer to Cuba, the Isle of Youth experienced 11.83 inches (300 mm) of rain with 15-foot (4.6 m) waves, causing extensive power outages and flooding.
On the coast of western and southern Cuba, Michelle produced 4–5 foot waves, along with a heavy storm surge. Rainfall amounts up to 754 mm/29.69 inches were recorded across the island. In addition, 300 mm/11.83 inches was reported at Punta del Este. The provinces of Matanzas, Villa Clara, and Cienfuegos were hardest hit, where 10,000 homes were destroyed and another 100,000 damaged. Severe damage was also reported to the sugar cane and in the tourist town of Varadero. In Havana, winds and rain destroyed 23 buildings, with many others damaged. Due to well-executed warnings and evacuations, only 5 people were killed in Cuba. The Category 4 hurricane caused US$1.8 billion in damage.
|Wettest tropical cyclones in the Bahamas
Highest known recorded totals
|1||747.5||29.43||Noel 2007||Long Island|||
|2||436.6||17.19||Flora 1963||Duncan Town|||
|3||390.1||15.36||Inez 1966||Nassau Airport|||
|4||337.1||13.27||Fox 1952||New Providence|||
|6||309.4||12.18||Erin 1995||Church Grove|||
|8||236.7||9.32||Floyd 1999||Little Harbor Abacos|||
|9||216.4||8.52||Cleo 1964||West End|||
|10||207.0||8.15||Betsy 1965||Green Turtle Cay|||
The United States offered aid to the island, an act it had done in the past despite a political embargo. President Fidel Castro refused, believing his country would survive with enough resources for the reconstruction process.
Severe beach erosion due to increased swells over several days took place from Hollywood Beach to Hallandale Beach. At high tide on November 4, water topped the seawall, damaging it and nearby structures leaving $20,000 in damages. The cost to restore the beaches was estimated at $10 million. The highest winds in relation to the storm were recorded in Sombrero Key; sustained winds reached 49 mph (79 km/h) and gusts reached 60 mph (95 km/h). A storm surge of 1 to 2 ft (0.30 to 0.61 m) was recorded along the southeast coastline of Florida. Damages from the hurricane amounted to $50,000.
Two tornadoes touched down in the state within the outer bands of the hurricane. The first formed as a waterspout and moved onshore near Bill Baggs Beach and destroyed two Chikee huts, costing $6,000, warranting F0 intensity, before dissipating. The second and stronger of the two tornadoes, rated F1, tracked for 2 mi (3.2 km) in Palm Beach County. Windows were blown out of vehicles and buildings, trees and signs were downed and a small area of sugar cane was leveled by the tornado. Damages from the tornado amounted to $10,000. A NOAA WP-3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft was damaged during a mission into the storm.
Because Hurricane Michelle was weakened and moving rapidly as it moved through the Bahamas, no deaths or damage were reported. The hurricane still retained some of its strength, and caused 12.64 inches (321 mm) of rain in Nassau, while New Providence received a storm surge of 5–8 feet. Flooding was reported throughout the archipelago and high winds downed numerous trees, resulting in 200,000 power outages. A few homes sustained roof damage and the roof a shopping center in Nassau was blown into a nearby funeral home. The radio tower of the station MORE FM was snapped in half by high winds, resulting in a severe disruption of radio broadcasts.
Ships carrying tons of frozen chicken legs and corn arrived in Havana's harbor on December 16, to aid in the recovery of Cuba from Hurricane Michelle. The shipments are part of a one-time $30 million purchase of U.S. food by the Cuban government to assist in the country's present food shortage.
The Cuban government refused an initial U.S. offer of humanitarian assistance, but accepted a proposal to purchase the goods instead. Although the United States has maintained an economic embargo on Cuba for decades, U.S. law does allow shipments of food and medicine to the communist-controlled island. But until now the Cuban government has refused to buy American food because of the restrictions, including a ban on direct U.S. financing of food sales.
Other aid from the international community is helping Cuba survive Michelle's aftermath. Cuba was promised $600,000 in aid from Chinese leader Li Peng, who was visiting when the hurricane struck. Venezuela also sent humanitarian assistance.
See also 
- List of wettest tropical cyclones in Cuba since 1963
- List of retired Atlantic hurricane names
- List of Florida hurricanes (2000–present)
- List of Category 4 Atlantic hurricanes
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- U.S. Aid
- Cuba Refuses Aid
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