Hurricane Emily Preliminary Report

Excerpts courtesy of the
National Hurricane Center (NHC)
--Written by Miles Lawrence

Synoptic History

Emily moved off the west coast of Africa and over the Cape Verde Islands on 17 August as a tropical wave. It took five days for the disturbance to develop enough of a circulation and convection to be classified as a tropical depression on the 22nd, while located 700 n mi east-northeast of Puerto Rico.

The depression moved toward the northwest for two days. It then encountered a weak steering current and became quasi-stationary on the 25th and 26th and began to intensify. A high pressure ridge built to the north and Emily, 900 n mi east of Florida, moved generally westward on the 27th and 28th.

Emily, under aircraft surveillance, reached tropical storm strength on the 25th and briefly became a 65-knot hurricane on the 26th. Wind speeds fluctuated between 60 and 75 knots during the two-day period of westward motion. Intensification began in earnest on the 28th and there was a turn toward the northwest in response to the passage of a mid-latitude trough to the north.

Emily veered back toward the west-northwest on the 30th and then started a gradual turn toward the north. Intensification continued until late on the 31st when the hurricane was moving northward and the eye wall reached the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The hurricane reached its peak intensity late on the 31st as the center of the eye reached its point of closest approach to land...about 20 n mi inner diameter of the circular wall cloud surrounding the center of the hurricane. This is based on Air Force Reserve Unit and NOAA reconnaissance as well as the Cape Hatteras radar. A portion of the western eye wall passed over Hatteras Island and the surrounding waters, with one-minute surface winds estimated between 65 and 100 knots. This caused strong on-shore winds on the Pamlico Sound side of Hatteras Island and the accompanying storm surge coastal flooding was up to 10 feet above normal tide levels. The Atlantic coast maximum surge levels are estimated to be only 1 to 2 feet above normal.

For the record, Emily will be counted as a category 3 hit on the Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale for Hyde and Dare Counties in North Carolina.

Emily was at the westernmost point of a re-curvature around the western periphery of a large high pressure area when it affected the Outer Banks and effects over land were minimal elsewhere. By 2 September, Emily had turned sharply toward the east in response to another mid-latitude trough and was weakening over colder North Atlantic water. It weakened to a tropical storm on the 3rd as it moved southward and stalled. By the 5th, Emily was a tropical depression and moving east-northeastward. Emily became extratropical on the 6th far out in the Atlantic and quickly dissipated.

Meteorological Statistics

The highest sustained wind measurement is 132 knots from an Air Force plane at 1729 UTC on the 31st, 16 n mi west of the center within a few hours of its point of closest approach to Hatteras Island. In all, there were 74 Air Force Reserve Unit and NOAA aircraft fixes of the tropical cyclone center during 7.5 days which is one fix every 2.4 hours.

The best track maximum wind speed is 100 knots for 12 hours beginning at 1800 UTC on the 31st. One hundred knots turns out to be a reduction to 76 percent of 132 knots, the 10-second aircraft wind at an altitude of 1500 feet. Diamond Shoals Light Tower is located about 15 n mi southeast of Cape Hatteras and its anemometer at 153 feet elevation measured a 2-minute wind speed of 86 knots at 2200 UTC and peak 5-second gust of 128 knots, along with a lowest pressure of 964.5 millibars, only 4.5 millibars higher than the aircraft-measured minimum pressure of 960 millibars at 2349 UTC.

The National Weather Service office in Buxton recorded a peak one-minute wind of 52 knots with a gust to 85 knots, but the measurement was disrupted just before the strongest winds are believed to have occurred. A private citizen in Buxton recorded 65 knots with a gust to 93 knots. Preliminary analysis at the Hurricane Research Division, NOAA, indicate surface winds speeds to as high as 100 knots over Pamlico Sound (private communication from Sam Houston). These strong on-shore winds drove flood waters over the Sound side of Hatteras Island. A storm surge flood height of 10.2 feet above sea level at Buxton is the highest reported value.

The maximum rainfall recorded was 7.5 inches at Buxton and very little was observed further west. Ocean City, Maryland reported 2.80 inches.

Casualty and Damage Statistics

Two swimming deaths in rough surf occurred at Nags Head, North Carolina on 1 September and a similar death was reported from the Virginia coast on the 31st.

A preliminary damage estimate for North Carolina is $35 million dollars, mainly on Hatteras Island. There were 553 dwellings deemed uninhabitable. About 160,000 persons were evacuated from the barrier islands of North Carolina, 750 persons from the Virginia coast, 100,000 from the Maryland coast, 1000 from Delaware and 20,000 from Fire Island, New York.


Some of the data used in this report came from the Special Climate Summary and from Buchtold and Pelissier (1993) listed below.

Buchtold, D., and J. Pelissier, 1993: Hurricane Emily in North Carolina, unpublished manuscript from the National Weather Service, Raleigh, NC.

Staff, 1993: Special climate summary, Hurricane Emily, Southeast Regional Climate Center, NOAA, Columbia, SC.