Meteorology
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Hurricane Danny

      
Although the 1997 hurricane season was one of the weakest on record, the Mobile area experienced its most unusual tropical cyclone. Most of the hurricanes that have caused significant damage in Mobile developed over the Atlantic, Caribbean, or the southern Gulf of Mexico. These storms were usually tracked for many days before reaching the Gulf Coast with considerable strength and forward motion. However, Hurricane Danny was quite different. Rather than forming in the deep tropics, Danny developed near the Gulf Coast from a non-tropical system. Furthermore, as the storm approached the coast, it slowed to a crawl. Then, after making landfall, it stalled for hours over Mobile Bay followed by a slow, meandering departure.
     

Hurricane Georges
Hurricane Danny - Click for larger view

Danny actually formed from an upper air disturbance that drifted southward from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico in mid July. A large area of thunderstorms then formed south of Louisiana gradually assuming tropical characteristics. On the 17th of July, the system intensified and became Tropical Storm Danny.

Tracking northeastward toward southeast Louisiana, Danny strengthened to a minimal hurricane on the 18th just before crossing the Mississippi River southeast of New Orleans. A wind gust of 95 mph was recorded at Grand Isle, Louisiana where considerable damage occurred to marine facilities.

With Hurricane Danny in the Alabama coastal waters on the night of Friday July 18, 1997 there was a sizeable difference in forecast paths between the "Official" National Hurricane Center and the Coastal Weather Research Center. Hurricane Danny actually moved into Mobile Bay 8 hours later. You may
see an example of the Blackwell Over-surface Hurricane Wind (BLOHW) Model as it demonstrates the two different forecast paths.
     
     


The Sands at Romar Beach condominium suffered
wind damage from Hurricane Danny.
Click for larger view
       

Following a slow, erratic path across the Chandeleur Islands, Danny turned northward reaching the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the 19th. Danny entered Mobile Bay where it stalled and, in an unusual move, achieved its lowest barometric pressure.

     

Although the storm was small, it packed strong wind gusts that reached 80 mph over the Fort Morgan Peninsula, Bon Secour Bay, and Dauphin Island. In fact, a gust of 101 mph was recorded at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Wind gusts of 70-75 mph were felt over Gulf Shores, Mullet Point, and the western shore of Mobile Bay south of Dog River.


Hurricane force winds and high tides forced this fishing
boat into a Dauphin Island yard.
Click for larger view
       

Rainfall totals of 25"-30" caused severe flooding along
the Fowl River in south Mobile County.
Click for larger view
      

Danny's legacy was rain, not wind. Once the storm stalled over Mobile Bay, the storm's circular configuration changed radically resulting in the creation of an enormous rain "pocket" on the western side of the system. This area of torrential rain remained nearly stationary for seven to nine hours resulting in incredible rainfall totals over Dauphin Island and southeast Mobile County. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab recorded 36.71" of rain for the storm with 25.98" in seven hours. Doppler radar in Mobile estimated more than 43" over southwest Mobile Bay!

During the evening of July 19th, Danny's eye moved into Baldwin County around Weeks Bay. This resulted in an eastward shift of the major rainfall center. Torrential rains pounded western Baldwin County through the night and into the morning of July 20th. Rainfall totals of 20"-25" fell over Baldwin County causing record flooding on the Fish River with considerable damage to homes, bridges, and roads across the county.


Heavy rains on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay
caused severe erosion to this property in Daphne.
Click for larger view
      

On July 19, while Hurricane Danny was producing torrential
rains over Mobile County, near hurricane force winds
were pushing Mobile Bay waters away from the Montrose shoreline. Click for larger view

After flooding the coastal counties, Danny was not through! The storm drifted northwest reaching Choctaw County late on the 20th where it dumped 12"-15" of rain causing severe flooding. Additional heavy rains spread northward through western Alabama as Danny drifted inland. Amazingly, Danny maintained its circulation across northern Alabama, northern Georgia and the Carolinas and then strengthened again as it entered the western Atlantic. Gale force winds were recorded along the Virginia coast and as far north as Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.

       

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