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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Climatic Data Center
Climate-Watch, September 2002

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High Resolution Satellite Image of Hurricane Andrew

Typhoon Sunlaku- September 6, 2002 - Off the Coast of China.

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Top of Page Review

A Pacific Hurricane ? --

When one thinks of hurricanes, some famous storms come to mind. Perhaps the most intense hurricane ever to hit the U.S. in modern times was the Labor Day Hurricane of September 1935. The storm struck the Florida Keys with 200 mph winds. The hurricane produced a fifteen foot tide and waves thirty feet high, and 400 people perished in the storm on that Labor Day. The barometric pressure at Matecumbe Bay, FL hit a record low for the U.S. of 26.35 inches.

September is also remembered for other record breaking hurricanes such as the Galveston Hurricane, Gilbert, the Long Island Express, Hugo, Frederick--just to name a few.

September hurricanes periodically bring havoc along the east coast of the United States, but there is a tropical system on the record books that hit southern California back in 1939. The storm was called "El Cordonazo" , the lash of St Francis.

The west coast storm moved onshore south of Los Angeles on September 25, 1939 and brought unprecedented rains along the southern coast of California. Nearly five and a half inches of rain drenched Los Angeles during a 24 hour period. The hurricane caused two million dollars damage, mostly to structures along the coast and to crops, and claimed 45 lives at sea. The flooding was enhanced by the full moon and the equinox. The storm produced 5.66 inches of rain at Los Angeles and 11.6 inches of rain at Mount Wilson, both records for the month of September.


Weather Log - September 1-10, 2002

According to media reports, soldiers and anti-disaster officials began repair work on September 1, 2002 after the most powerful typhoon to hit South Korea in 40 years left at least 47 people dead and 33 missing in flash floods and landslides. Local media reported up to 132 people dead or missing from Typhoon Rusa, and said the death toll was expected to rise further. Rusa has dumped up to 89 centimeters (36 inches) of rain over the weekend in eastern and southern South Korea. It left the peninsula Sunday afternoon moving across the east coast without causing further damage. Wind gusts of up to 57 meters per second (127 miles per hour) had ripped up trees and knocked down 7,800 electricity poles, causing a blackout for 1.16 million households. Some 240,000 homes still had no power on Sunday, and 140,000 homes remained without telephone service. More than 17,000 houses and buildings in low-lying areas were submerged, forcing 27,474 residents to take shelter at public buildings and schools. Floods inundated 5,110 hectares (12,621 acres) of farm land.

A powerful typhoon swept over Japan's outlying Okinawan islands and whirled toward northern Taiwan on the 5th, threatening to trigger landslides and flooding on the crowded island. Typhoon Sinlaku's eye passed over the Okinawa island chain Wednesday evening, causing flooding and temporarily cutting off power in some places. The fringe of the storm, packing surface winds of 89 mph, was expected to start lashing Taiwan early on the 6th, and officials issued land warnings on Thursday.

The typhoon brought rains and high winds through parts of eastern China, leaving 23 people dead, five missing and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands, officials said Sunday (8th). Worst hit was Wenzhou, a large industrial city of 7 million in coastal Zhejiang province, near where Typhoon Sinlaku made landfall at around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. A city official, who refused to give his name, said Sunday that 16 people were dead and one missing. The China Meteorological Administration has said Sinlaku packed sustained winds of 81 mph. Up to 3.5 inches of rain inundated Zhejiang.

The storm has since moved south to the coastal Fujian province; then inland to Jiangxi province, officials said Sunday, but gave no details of injuries or damage. Sinlaku -- named after a Micronesian goddess -- battered Japan's Okinawa island on Thursday, leaving five Philippine sailors missing and injuring at least 29 people.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Fay dumped heavy rains and spawned tornadoes on the 7th, as the storm moved inland over Texas. According to the Associated Press, up to a foot of rain fell in Freeport and West Columbia, in coastal Brazoria County and 5 to 8 inches were reported in Matagorda and Wharton counties.

Weather Log - September 11-20, 2002

The remnants of tropical storm Hanna brought heavy rain and overcast skies to the eastern third of the United States on the 13-15th, stretching from the Gulf Coast to the mid-Atlantic. Rainfall spread from the Florida Panhandle northward across the Appalachians into the Ohio Valley and the Northeast, with flash flooding reported in scattered parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. This storm brought much needed rains to parts of the southeast which has been suffering from extended drought conditions. Preliminary rainfall totals as of early Sunday (15th) include: 14.59 inches at Donaldson GA, 8.10 inches at Chipley FL, 7.25 inches at Blakely GA, 6.00 at Newton GA, and 5.05 inches at Marianna FL. Two to five inch rainfall amounts were common across portions of western Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

Media reports indicate, some 800 people narrowly escaped a huge mudslide in northern Thailand on the 17th. The mudslide swept through three villages in a tangle of uprooted trees and destroyed buildings. The mudslide, triggered by weeks of monsoon rain, demolished seven houses in Chiang Mai province and damaged another 60 structures. The Thai interior ministry said the total death toll from widespread monsoon flooding in various parts of Thailand since early August rose to 78 people.

According to NOAA's National Hurricane Center , Hurricane Isidore continues to gain strength Friday morning (20th), with winds up to 105 miles per hour as it moved closer to western Cuba. The hurricane is expected to continue into the Gulf of Mexico where it could become even more intense. Isidore is now a Category 2 hurricane, located "very near" the tip of the Isle of Youth -- an island just south of Cuba's western coast -- and 100 miles south-southwest of Havanna, Cuba. Isidore -- which hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 3 hurricane -- lost strength as it sat over the region, where it forced at least 70,000 people from their homes, including entire villages. About 800,000 people lost phone and power lines. The storm was blamed for at least two deaths in Mexico.

Weather Log - September 21-30, 2002

Isadore reached a Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of 110 kts (127 mph) on the 21st. The storm brought massive flooding to western Cuba and the northern Yucatan areas with over two feet of rain falling in some spots. The storm was downgraded to a tropical storm on the 22nd. Tropical storm Isadore came on-shore near Grand Isle, LA early on the 26th and dumped heavy rains with gusty winds and flooding across the deep south. Forecasters warned that the Southeast could see as much as 10 to 20 inches of rain in the next few days, causing life-threatening floods, and said the system's precipitation will reach as far as the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. The storm has also spawned tornadoes from southeastern Louisiana northeastward into Georgia. Two people in Mississippi were killed indirectly as a result of the tropical storm.

September has been very active so far in 2002 with eight named storms including Tropical Storm Lily which reached tropical storm on September 23, 2002. So far, the 2 most notable storms have been Gustav and Isidore. See the updates report on these storms at Climate of 2002 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Drought continues to plague many parts of the United States, with agricultural and related economic losses mounting. See the NCDC weekly climate monitoring maps for the latest information. For other information, see:

U.S. Drought Monitor map and report
48-month precipitation percentiles map
48-month standardized precipitation index map

Drought sometimes has some unusual consequences. As the lake's water levels recede to near-record lows the remains of what was once Georgia's second-largest city are making a rare appearance and offering a glimpse of a ghostly past. It doesn't look like much. Most of the city's ruins still lie beneath the lake's murky waters, which have sunk more than 14 feet, exposing old roadbeds, fence lines and brick foundations. Petersburg was founded as a tobacco town in the late 1700s and peaked in 1809, when 45,000 people lived in the Broad River Valley. But then the economy dried up and the settlement dwindled as quickly as it had grown. The town was buried in a watery grave 50 years ago, when the Army Corps of Engineers flooded 72,000 acres to build Thurmond Lake."


Top of Page Selected U.S. City and State Extremes

The Selected U.S. City and State Extremes provides a list of new records that were set across the U.S. during September 2002.


Top of Page Additional Resources