Tropical Storm Nicole (2010)

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Tropical Storm Nicole
Tropical storm (SSHWS/NWS)
CAmerica 2 04.2010271.terra.250m.jpg
Satellite image of Nicole as a tropical storm
Formed September 28, 2010
Dissipated September 30, 2010
(Extratropical on September 29)[1]
Highest winds 1-minute sustained: 45 mph (75 km/h)
Lowest pressure 995 mbar (hPa); 29.38 inHg
Fatalities 16 dead
Damage $240 million (2010 USD)
Areas affected Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Cuba, Florida, Bahamas, United States East Coast
Part of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season

Tropical Storm Nicole was a short-lived and unusually asymmetric tropical cyclone that caused extensive rainfall and flooding in Jamaica during the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the sixteenth tropical cyclone and the fourteenth named storm of the season, as well as the last of a record eight tropical storms to form in September.[2] Originating from a broad monsoonal low, Nicole became a tropical depression over the northwestern Caribbean Sea on September 28. It maintained an unusual structure as it tracked northeastward, with a poorly defined wind circulation and few thunderstorms near its center. Nicole approached the coast of Cuba as a weak tropical storm, losing its status as a tropical cyclone over the territory on September 29. The remnants emerged over the Bahamas and eventually became absorbed by a separate extratropical system.

Due to Nicole's atypical structure, the strongest thundershowers were well removed from the center; most of the weather activity occurred over the north-central Caribbean. In Jamaica, the storm triggered widespread power outages across more than 288,000 residences. Extreme precipitation of up to 37.42 inches (940 mm) caused disastrous flooding in several parishes, severely damaging or destroying 528 houses. The devastation extended to the island's farmland and environment, which suffered from expansive water pollution. In all, Nicole wrought an estimated $240 million (2010 USD) in damage throughout Jamaica, and there were sixteen fatalities. Elsewhere, minor flooding occurred in Cuba, Florida, and the Cayman Islands. The remnants of the storm contributed to a large disturbance along the East Coast of the United States, causing additional damage and deaths.

Meteorological history[edit]

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm according to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale

In late September 2010, a wide band of disturbed weather and low pressure associated with the monsoon trough and remnant tropical moisture from Tropical Storm Matthew meandered over the northwestern Caribbean Sea.[3] With a broad upper ridge anchored along the Yucatán coast, diffluence aloft in the vicinity of the disturbance provided focus for the development of scattered convection.[4] The National Hurricane Center (NHC) noted an environment supportive of tropical development, and by September 27 a broad surface low formed amid the convection.[5] The next day, surface pressures steadily dropped as sustained winds around the low increased to near tropical storm force.[6] Throughout the development process, moderate westerly wind shear over the region caused the disturbance to exhibit a rather asymmetric structure;[1] it developed an elongated low-pressure center by September 28, well to the northwest of its strongest wind field.[7] Despite the asymmetry, the NHC initiated advisories on a tropical depression around 15:00 UTC that day, after surface and satellite observations revealed a sufficiently defined circulation center west of the deep convection.[8] Post-season reassessments, however, indicated that a tropical storm had in fact formed three hours earlier, about 75 miles (120 km) south of Cuba's Isle of Youth.[1]

The center of Nicole near Cuba, with the greatest rain volumes to the southeast over Jamaica as depicted on water vapor imagery

For most of its duration, Nicole maintained a generally northeastward motion, caught in the steering flow between a large mid- to upper-level trough and an anticyclone to the west.[1][8] Within hours of the storm's formation, observations from a Hurricane Hunters flight confirmed a composition similar to the one initially discerned, with the strongest gusts and thunderstorms dislocated 250 mi (400 km) east from the ill-defined center.[1][9] In comparison, the core consisted of light winds and sporadic convection—a structure rather characteristic of a North Indian Ocean monsoon depression.[9][10] The system's ambiguous nature led to disagreement among weather specialist over its classification: while the NHC maintained its tropical cyclone status, Cuban meteorologist José Rubiera stated that "no tropical storm exists over [Cuba], or near it," noting a lack of significant winds in the country's vicinity.[11]

Over the course of September 29, radar data showed the convection increasing over the northern half of the storm;[12] bands of intense thunderstorms in the southeastern periphery also formed closer to the center, and weather buoys and ships in that region observed sustained tropical-storm-force winds.[13] Around 12:00 UTC, Nicole attained an estimated peak intensity of 45 mph (75 km/h) winds and a minimum pressure of 995 mbar (hPa; 29.38 inHg), just south of Cuba.[1] Despite the increase in strength,[13] Nicole's circulation soon became exceedingly elongated and untrackable over central Cuba, prompting the NHC to declassify it as a tropical cyclone by 15:00 UTC.[1][14] The remnant low began interacting with the neighboring trough that had steered Nicole in its tropical stages, resulting in significant amounts of precipitation along the southeastern coastlines of the United States. Accelerating toward the northeast, the system acquired frontal characteristics and became extratropical over the Bahamas by 0600 UTC, September 30, twelve hours before merging with a developing system over eastern North Carolina.[1] Lingering low pressure and broad cyclonic flow over the north-central Caribbean in Nicole's wake contributed to the development of Hurricane Paula in the first weeks of October.[15]

Preparations[edit]

Caribbean[edit]

In anticipation of a tropical storm, warnings were issued for the Cayman Islands, the northwestern and central Bahamas, and the Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, and Ciego de Ávila on September 28.[16] However, the warnings were discontinued the following day after reports of the storm's prompt dissipation.[17] After forecasters warned of severe weather across the Cayman Islands, schools and government offices closed in low-lying areas,[18] and emergency teams cleaned out storm drains and readied shelters.[19] Thunderstorms in Grand Cayman forced Cayman Airways to cancel all express flights to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman on October 29; weather-resistant jet service was provided to stranded passengers.[18] A marine warning was required for all three islands due to rough sea conditions.[20][21]

In Jamaica, a flash flood warning remained in effect for flood-prone regions for four days, ultimately discontinued on October 3.[22][23] Schools and several businesses, including the US Embassy in Kingston, closed on September 29–30 as the island braced for heavy rains.[24][25] Public transit was suspended islandwide on the evening of September 29,[26] and shipping interests were cautioned to secure their vessels.[22] At the height of the storm, army and police officials patrolled the island in case of emergencies.[27]

The remnants of Nicole approaching South Carolina on September 30

United States[edit]

Tropical storm warnings were issued for the Florida Keys, the Florida Bay, and from the Jupiter Inlet coast southward to Cape Sable on September 28. A tropical storm watch was in place for the mainland north from the Jupiter Inlet to the Sebastian Inlet and north of East Cape Sable to Chokoloskee.[16] The warnings and watch were discontinued the next day, after a direct impact was no longer expected.[28] At the time, a flood watch remained in effect for Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier, and Monroe counties into September 30.[29] An airport weather warning was issued for Orlando International Airport and Executive Airport on September 28; arriving flights were put on hold, and pilots rerouted to other airports if possible. Eight Southwest Airlines flights were diverted to the airports of Tampa and Jacksonville, and one JetBlue flight to West Palm Beach. Though airport officials later reported normalized conditions,[30] an additional 26 flights were canceled at Miami International Airport the next day.[31]

In Brunswick and New Hanover counties, North Carolina, officials readied shelters on September 29 to accommodate stranded residents unable to access their homes. Multiple schools in New Hanover and Pender County remained closed the next morning due to worsening storm conditions from the disturbance succeeding Nicole.[32] At the threat of prolonged rainfall, a flood watch was issued for Kent County, Maryland, from September 30 to October 1. Also in the area, the National Weather Service declared both a coastal flood advisory and wind advisory for September 30.[33]

Impact[edit]

Jamaica[edit]

Nicole over the northwestern Caribbean on September 29

For several days, Nicole and its precursor disturbance brought great amounts of rainfall to much of Jamaica. A maximum total of 37.42 inches (940 mm) was recorded in Belleisle, Westmoreland Parish, from September 26 to 30;[1] most other parishes received over 12 in (300 mm) during this time. With a return period of 30 years, these quantities tripled the monthly rainfall average for September at several locations. Though the broad-scale wind regime over the island remained gentle, the storm's intense convective bands produced three microbursts—small downdrafts of intense winds.[34] Following the degradation of river banks and waterways, the heaviest impact was due to landslides and particularly severe flooding across numerous communities, primarily in the southern parishes.[34][35]

The site of a collapsed shed in Saint Andrew Parish, killing three construction workers that inhabited it at the time.

The disaster affected a total of 507,831 people; it resulted in 16 deaths—14 of which confirmed—and 42 injuries.[34] In Saint Andrew Parish's Sandy Park, a house next to a street gully succumbed to the effects of the storm; five bodies were recovered near the site, while the remaining missing inhabitant was later presumed dead.[36][37] Elsewhere in Saint Andrew, three construction workers were killed when the shed in which they were sleeping caved in.[38] A girl was crushed to death under the weight of a collapsed board house in Saint Catherine Parish.[39] Rushing waters in different parts of the island swept away three people, all of whom drowned.[40][41] A waterspout hit Westmoreland Parish's capital of Savanna-la-Mar amid a microburst, tearing the roofs off buildings and hospitalizing five residents.[34][42] In the wake of the storm, a body was recovered from debris along a road in Saint Catherine.[43] Nationwide, floods trapped hundreds of residents in their homes.[44] The obstruction of roads and bridges isolated various communities across seven of the island's parishes.[45]

Jamaica's infrastructure was devastated in the deluge, accounting for most of the material damage on the island. At the height of the storm, more than 288,000 residences lost power due to downed electricity lines and poles, and over 40 percent of the island's water supply was disrupted.[34] Dozens of bridges collapsed under the force of swollen rivers and creeks. In Kingston, underpasses suffered severe flooding as prolonged rainfall overwhelmed storm drains; subsequent surface inundations left several of the city's roads impassable.[46] Destruction to the transport infrastructure was especially extensive in Westmoreland, Saint Elizabeth, and Hanover parishes, though overall 543 of the island's principle roads sustained some degree of damage.[34] The value of costs linked to the infrastructure neared J$20 billion (US$235.4 million).[47]

Nicole wreaked widespread property damage, encompassing 2,169 houses: 474 sustained severe damage, while 54 were beyond repair. The losses totaled J$274.3 million (US$3.2 million), J$75.6 million (US$890,000) hereof required to replace destroyed housing units.[34] With much of its crops and livestock washed away, the island's agricultural sector suffered about J$576.5 million (US$6.8 million) in losses, including 40 percent of the season's banana produce. The storm had a discernible impact on the environment, which plays a crucial role in the Jamaica's economy and tourism. Surface runoffs and spills along industrial zones and sewage systems infiltrated wide stretches of land, leading to scattered pollution, coastal erosion, and deterioration in the ecosystems of the affect regions. In addition, light damage occurred to vegetation as evidenced by uprooted trees.[34]

Elsewhere[edit]

While intensifying offshore, Nicole's outer bands produced heavy downpours over drought-stricken Cuba.[48] Locally, rain along the southeastern coast was particularly high; a 48-hour total of 9.22 inches (235 mm) fell at Cape Cruz, in the mountainous Granma Province. The region briefly observed gale-force winds, gusting to 53 mph (85 km/h) at Guantánamo Bay.[1] Throughout eastern Cuba, 300 people sought refuge during the storm. As rivers overflowed in Granma, eight houses collapsed and more than 300 others endured flooding in the coastal town of Pilón. Several roads were obstructed, with part of the highway between Granma and Santiago de Cuba destroyed. The floods resulted in 5,000 lbs (2.5 tons) of losses in crops and livestock.[49] These effects were nevertheless considered minor, and the rains helped alleviate a persistent dry spell in the country.[50]

Rainfall from Tropical Storm Nicole in Florida

In the Cayman Islands, gusts to 51 mph (82 km/h) stirred up a rough sea with 8–10 ft (2.5–3 m) high waves, causing light erosion along south and western shores.[51][52] Though heavy rainfall over the region was widespread, the greatest quantities fell on Grand Cayman, where the Owen Roberts International Airport recorded 9.02 in (229 mm) of rain over a period of two days.[51] The storm flooded low-lying areas, caused roof leaks, and knocked out the power in parts of eastern Grand Cayman, but overall damage across the islands was limited.[51]

Despite initial threats of heavy thunderstorms and strong gusts, Florida was spared a direct impact from Nicole. The storm only skirted the state with showers;[53] a rainfall total of 12.71 inches (323 mm) was recorded at North Key Largo, though the mainland received considerably less.[54] Street flooding occurred in Miami Beach and the northern Florida Keys, but only one residence sustained damage.[1] Similarly, inclement weather spread over parts of the Bahamas without significant consequences.[1][55]

Post-tropical system[edit]

The extratropical remnants of Nicole retained plenty of moisture and ultimately combined with a large low-pressure system slowly tracking up the US East Coast.[55] The resultant disturbance produced torrential thunderstorms over entire coastlines and inland as far north as Canada, resulting in widespread power outages[56] and shattering numerous precipitation records throughout the region.[55][57] The most extreme weather was concentrated over Eastern North Carolina; in the week of September 24–October 1, most communities recorded rainfall totals of 8–10 in (200–250 mm).[55] Wilmington measured 22.54 inches (573 mm) of rain, the most it had received over a five-day period since 1871, while Kinston recorded 15 in (380 mm) during that time. The rains caused widespread flooding exacerbated by overflowing creeks and rivers, surrounding and isolating several homes.[58] About 150 roads were closed due to the hazardous conditions; traffic accidents across the state nonetheless resulted in seven deaths.[59]

Flooding from the post-tropical system in Vanceboro, North Carolina

In the Mid-Atlantic, the event broke daily rainfall records for September 30 at several locations including the Norfolk, Baltimore–Washington, and Ronald Reagan Washington airports, which recorded 7.85 in (199 mm), 6.02 in (153 mm), and 4.66 in (118 mm) respectively.[55] In Maryland, two buses collided amid the stormy weather, injuring 26 passengers.[56] With localized estimates of up to 8 in (200 mm),[60] the state of New York experienced some of its most historic rainfall; an official 4.24 in (108 mm) shattered the 24-hour record for any calendar day in Binghamtom.[57] Flash floods throughout the state led to one drowning and about US$10,000 in damage.[60] Considerable flooding also occurred in Vermont and Pennsylvania, with a 24-hour rainfall maximum of 10.5 in (265 mm) observed in Moscow.[59] Farther north, the remnant low enhanced a pressure gradient over southern New England, generating strong winds that knocked out power in Litchfield County. Rainfall there additionally caused minor flooding.[61] In Quebec, torrents following 3.5 in (90 mm) of rainfall inundated basements and caused two drownings.[56] Despite the deaths and damage, the rains alleviated prolonged drought conditions in those regions.[62]

Aftermath[edit]

On October 5, a national disaster was declared for Jamaica due to the effects of Nicole. In response, the USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance provided US$50,000 for the purchase and delivery of relief supplies and fuel for emergency vehicles.[63] About J$4 million (US$46,800) was donated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to the Greenhouse Growers Association for the repair of greenhouses. In conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated J$12 million (US$140,400) was made available to initiate the planting of about 50,000 crop seedlings. The Veterinary Division provided financial assistance to livestock farmers and dispatched animal technicians providing prophylactic medication and vitamins to avert foot rot disease in small ruminants, including goats and sheep. The cost of the medication was estimated at J$2 million (US$23,400). The Banana Board's Catastrophe Fund, which at the time comprised J$50 million (US$585,000), delivered both monetary support and human resources to local banana and plantain farmers.[64]

Road damage in Nicole's wake was widespread across Jamaica.

Eleven days after the storm, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies allocated CHF150,644 (US$156,221) to sustain the Jamaica Red Cross in distributing aid to about 500 families—or 2,500 beneficiaries—in need of life supplies.[45] In late December 2010, the Jamaica–Canadian Association in Toronto, Canada raised a total of CDN$10,153.87 (US$10,221.33) in relief funds to assist flood victims.[65] The Hanover Parish Council requested J$30 million (US$351,000) to assist the Saint James Parish Council and other municipal authorities across the country in post-storm clean-up and beautification work.[66] A grant of J$279 million (US$3.26 million) was approved for the reconstruction of a major roadway section in Westmoreland Parish.[67]

In spite of the timely relief efforts, Nicole's effects were still felt for months in its wake. The gross domestic product for Jamaica, which had been suffering from a substantially slow economic growth rate, further declined following the extensive storm damage.[68] The agriculture sector sustained slight losses from reduced egg production due to the traumatizing effects on farm chickens,[69] and the storm's impact contributed to below-standard levels of holiday season consumption.[70]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]