Hurricane Lenny

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Hurricane Lenny
Category 4 hurricane ( SSHS)
Hurricane Lenny south of Saint Croix

Hurricane Lenny south of Saint Croix
Formed November 13, 1999
Dissipated November 23, 1999
155 mph (250 km/h) (1-minute sustained)
Lowest pressure 933 mbar ( hPa)
Damage $330 million (1999 USD, damage in US territories only)

$370 million (2005 USD, damage in US territories only)

Fatalities 17 direct
Colombia, Puerto Rico, Leeward Islands
Part of the
1999 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Lenny was the 12th tropical storm, eighth hurricane, and fifth major hurricane in the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season. Lenny was the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded in November, and quite unusual in that it moved west-to-east across the Caribbean.

Lenny brought more heavy rains to areas in the Leeward Islands that had been affected by Hurricane Jose just one month earlier, and brought more damage to areas struck by Hurricane Georges the previous year.

Storm history

Storm path
Storm path

A broad area of low pressure formed in the southwestern Caribbean Sea on November 8. It drifted northward, slowly organizing with warm water temperatures and little upper-level shear. On November 13, the disturbance organized enough to be classified as Tropical Depression Sixteen, 300 nautical miles west-southwest of Kingston, Jamaica. Conditions continued to favour development, and the depression became Tropical Storm Lenny on the 14th.

Lenny headed east-southeastward, its motion in part due to the southern portion of a deep-layer trough over the western Atlantic. On November 15, Lenny intensified to hurricane strength while south of Jamaica, and reached Category 2 strength later that day. However, the small inner core was disrupted by environmental changes, and Lenny weakened back to a poorly-organized Category 1.

Hurricane Lenny at peak intensity
Hurricane Lenny at peak intensity

Its inner core re-established itself on November 16, and Lenny rapidly intensified to a 155 mph Category 4 hurricane over the northeastern Caribbean just before making landfall at Saint Croix on the 17th. A ridge to the east and a ridge to the north forced the hurricane to drift over the Windward Islands on the 17th through the 19th. Upwelling steadily weakened Lenny as it turned east-southeastward over Saint Martin, Anguilla, Saint-Barthélemy, and Antigua on November 18 and November 19. As it left the islands, upper level shear and cooler waters weakened Lenny, first to a tropical storm on November 19, then a tropical depression in the open Atlantic on the 21st. It turned to the northeast, and dissipated on November 23 in the open Atlantic.

An unusual storm

Hurricane Lenny was unusual in several respects. It traversed the Caribbean from west to east, the reverse of typical hurricane paths. It was the first time such a trajectory had been seen in 113 years of hurricane observations in the Atlantic/Caribbean basin. The last hurricane to strike the western portion of the Lesser Antilles was Hurricane Klaus from the 1984 season.

Lenny's 155 mph (250 km/h) peak, just under Category 5 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, makes it the strongest November hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin.

Lenny was also the fifth Category 4 hurricane of the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season, breaking the record for the number of storms of that strength in one season. This record was tied in the 2005 season.


Lenny was forecast to move through the Leeward Islands as a Category 3 hurricane, surprising islanders when it strengthened into a strong Category 4 hurricane. Hurricane warnings were issued for much of the Leeward Islands on November 16, about a day prior to the storm passing through. In preparation for landfall, a FEMA team was deployed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, bringing 6,000 rolls of roofing-quality plastic sheeting, 112 generators, and 90,000 gallons of water. Medical teams were sent as well.


Death Toll by Area
State/country Deaths
Colombia 2
Saint Martin 3
Guadeloupe 5
Martinique 1
Offshore 6
Total 17

In all, 17 deaths were attributed to Hurricane Lenny. Its Category 4 winds caused widespread destruction across the northeastern Caribbean, amounting to $330 million ($370 million in 2005) in damage to U.S. territories.


Early in the hurricane's life, Lenny caused large waves and swells to the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia. Two sailors were killed when their yacht was lost in the southern Caribbean Sea. On the coast, Lenny flooded 1,200 houses, leaving 540 people homeless. Moderate crop damage was seen as well.

Puerto Rico

Rainfall totals from Lenny
Rainfall totals from Lenny

Puerto Rico, where Lenny was originally forecast to make landfall, was spared a direct hit. However, Lenny's outer rainbands caused heavy rainfall amounting to 14.64 inches in Jayuya, causing mudslides in the southeastern portion of the island. More than 4,700 were in shelters, 80,000 lacked electricity, and 100,000 were without safe drinking water.

Leeward Islands

Property Damage in the Virgin Islands
Property Damage in the Virgin Islands

Hurricane Lenny first made landfall on Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands. The unprotected southwest side of the island suffered hours of heavy rain accumulating to 8 inches, 155 mph winds, intense waves, and a 15 foot storm surge. Strong winds and the rainfall impacted the agricultural sector, while many boats on the north side of the island either sank or washed ashore. Though damage was heavy, it was not extreme, and no deaths were reported.

Lenny later hit Saint Martin, Anguilla, Saint-Barthélemy, and Antigua while drifting through the Leeward Islands. Torrential rainfall was reported in these islands, with a maximum of 27.56 inches on St. Martin. The flooding led to mudslides, contributing to the destruction of numerous houses. Extensive storm surge, strong winds, and 12 foot waves caused significant beach erosion on their west coasts, the side rarely affected by a landfalling hurricane. The industries most affected by the hurricane were agriculture, fishing, and tourism.

Damage to the Frederiksted Pier in St. Croix
Damage to the Frederiksted Pier in St. Croix

Due to its large circulation, Lenny also affected Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, Barbuda, Martinique, and Montserrat. 20 foot waves pounded the islands, resulting in damaged buildings. Heavy rain and strong winds contributed to 6 deaths among these islands. In Dominica, for example, hotels along the island's west coast experienced major damage, with 35% loss of the banana crop and 40% of coastal roads washed out. 95% of the crops in Barbuda were destroyed, while 65% of the island was flooded.


After the Four Seasons resort on Nevis was flooded and heavily damaged, the buildings were closed down for just over a year while a $50 million (1999 USD, $57 million 2005 USD) reconstruction went underway. A reopening occurred on November 24, 2000, just over a year after Lenny's wrath. United States President Bill Clinton declared a state of emergency for the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of the storm, which made the island's residents eligible for federal financial aid.


The name Lenny was retired in the spring of 2000 and will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. The name was replaced with Lee in the 2005 season.

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