2004 Florida Hurricane Season Summary's
Hurricane Charley:
Hurricane Charley began as a tropical disturbance that emerged from the west coast of Africa during the first couple of days of August. On August 7th the disturbance began to show signs of organization near 45W as some banding features began to develop on the western part of what appeared to be a mid-level circulation. On August 9th the system began to develop further and was upgraded to a tropical depression as it moved across the southern Windward Islands. The next day, August 10th the depression increased in organization and development and was designated tropical storm "Charley". Mid-afternoon on the 10th a recon flight measured a pressure of 999mb which confirmed the existence of a tropical storm. The center of Charley was a very small tight vortex. Charley had throughout its life cycle a very tight inner core. On August 11th the small tropical storm was approaching Jamaica and made a zig-zag track by-passing the island as the storm intensified into a hurricane. During the next 24 hours hurricane Charley made a gradual turn from WNW to NNW as the storm was approaching a more like an October type mid-latitude trough digging into the central Gulf of Mexico as the storm steadily intensified. During the hours just after midnight of August 12th the now major hurricane crossed the western part of Cuba just west of Havana. Wind gusts at Havana Cuba were measured to as high as 121mph as Charley passed just to the west of the station. During the early morning of August 13th the now intensifying but small hurricane Charley was on a steady course toward the west coast of Florida. Toward mid-day the almost straight north course began to lean slightly east of due north. During this time period the hurricane began to rapidly intensify into a category-4. The eye shrank from 12 miles across down to 5 miles across at landfall. After a couple of hours of driving up and down the coastline myself and my longtime hurricane chase partner Andy Dressler settled on Port Charlotte as our location to photograph the land falling major hurricane. We found a safe location in a parking garage as Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte. Photographs and video are available upon request. After making landfall in the Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte area the hurricane moved rapidly NNE across the state and emerged near Daytona Beach Florida. A weakened hurricane Charley rapidly moved up the Atlantic seaboard and gradually lost its tropical characteristics.
Hurricane Frances:
Hurricane Frances was a classic Cape Verde hurricane. The disturbance which developed into Frances can be traced back to the west coast of Africa around August 21st. Early on the 25th the system organized into a tropical depression. During the next 36 hours Frances developed rapidly into a hurricane. The next two days the hurricane continued to steadily intensify to major hurricane status. Frances became a category four hurricane on August 31st. The hurricane reached its peak strength at a point of about 150 miles north of the western end of Puerto Rico on September 1st. During the next couple of days I was convinced this storm could easily rival the 1926 Miami hurricane or the 1928 Palm Beach storm, both were large category-4 hurricanes which brought much devastation to the east and southeast coast of Florida. As Frances moved into the central Bahamas the upper level anticyclone which was well established over the hurricane during the previous few days began to de-couple from the hurricane and was re-positioned just to the east of the storm and caused a southerly shear over the hurricane as it approached the western Bahamas and Florida. This re-arrangement of the systems caused a once cat-4 hurricane to weaken to a cat-2 hurricane. Hurricane Frances was a real slow mover just the opposite of "Charley". It took nearly two days for the storm to move from just offshore the east coast of Florida to a point near Tampa. I along with hurricane chasers Jose Garcia and Karl Hoarau chased hurricane Frances mostly in the Jupiter Island area. This area of the Florida coast was closest to the eyewall during the daylight hours. We were still in the same area at the time the eye made landfall about 02:00GMT Sept 5th, we measured a pressure of 962mb. As in "Charley" photo's and video are available. After crossing the central part of Florida hurricane Frances briefly moved into the extreme NE Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm. After that the tropical storm turned north then crossed the coast just east of Tallahassee Florida. 
Hurricane Ivan:
Hurricane Ivan, the most intense and destructive hurricane of the active 2004 season. The precursor to hurricane Ivan moved off the west coast of Africa during the closing days of August. During the afternoon of September 2nd the disturbance was near 29W just south of 10N was classified as a tropical depression. The next two days the system steadily developed and increased in strength to hurricane status early on on September 5th. During the next 12 hours rapidly increased into a category 3 hurricane. Ivan is probably the first in recorded history to reach major hurricane intensity as far south as 10N. The next two days the hurricane fluctuated in intensity between category 2 and 4. On September 7th hurricane Ivan crossed the island of Granada in the southern Windward Islands as an intensifying category 3 hurricane. The hurricane moved over the island with winds of 120mph with gusts over 150mph along with a pressure of 956mb. Once hurricane Ivan entered the southeast Caribbean the storm intensified steadily to category 5 during the early morning hours of September 9th. The hurricane continued on what appeared to be a direct impact on Jamaica. Just in the nick of time or what could be called a miracle for Jamaica the track of the storm made dramatic change from a almost NW heading to a WSW heading just as the storm approached the island of Jamaica. Once the storm was to the SW of the island it resumed its WNW track. During the period of September 11th and 12th the hurricane reached its peak strength with winds of 165 mph and a central pressure of 910mb. Ivan was the strongest hurricane since "Mitch" 1998 in the same region with a pressure of 905mb. During the day of September 12th the center of this category 5 hurricane passed within 30 miles SW of Grand Cayman island. and brought category 4 conditions to the island. The hurricane continued to move slowly NW toward the western tip of Cuba on September 13th. The eastern eyewall moved across the very western tip of the island. Once entering the southeast Gulf of Mexico the hurricane began to decrease somewhat in strength at the same time began tracking almost straight toward the north. On September 15th the hurricane made steady progress toward the direction of Mobile Alabama. During the afternoon of the 15th I setup my position at Gulf Shores Alabama as it looked like that would be the most likely point of landfall. As night fell I repositioned myself to the western suburbs of Pensacola Florida as I got information the center of the storm appeared to make more of a NNE jog. I was concerned of the possibility of being trapped by storm surge on Gulf Shores and being located on the western side of the eyewall. I chose the Pensacola as a guarantee I would experience the eastern eyewall where the strongest winds would be located. The winds where I was located probably gusted over 125mph for at least one hour as the northeast and eastern eyewall moved over my location. The strongest winds at my location occurred between the hours of 2 until 4am. As daylight arrived I drove around the city of Pensacola to observe the damage and find the first road out of the area. During the day September 16th the hurricane continued north to northnortheast causing extensive damage across eastern Alabama. The next few days the remnants of Ivan became a big rain and flood event over the eastern portion of the U.S.
Hurricane Jeanne:
As category 5 hurricane Ivan was on a destructive rampage near western Cuba an area of disturbed weather began to organize just to the east of the Leeward Islands. On the afternoon of September 13th satellite and surface reports from the Leeward Islands indicated a closed low pressure system had developed in the islands near 16N and 60.4W. The next day the depression intensified into tropical storm "Jeanne". On September 15th tropical storm Jeanne moved directly across Puerto Rico as a strong tropical storm with hurricane intensity gusts. Early on September 16th Jeanne was briefly upgraded to hurricane status. As the small hurricane turned to a more westward course it began to encounter the high mountains of Hispanola and dramatically weakened down to a depression. The next few days as the re-developing tropical storm moved slowly in a northerly direction in response to a digging mid-latitude trough over the eastern U.S. As this trough moved slowly eastward it appeared it would take Jeanne out to the east or northeast away from land. Because of the slow movement of Jeanne and the failure of the trough to dig any farther south the hurricane began a slow anticyclonic loop which allowed the high pressure ridge behind the trough time to build over the north side of the hurricane and steer it westward toward the northern Bahamas and the east coast of Florida. During the time the hurricane was on its westward heading it intensified into a major category 3 hurricane. The hurricane's eye made landfall near the Stuart/Ft.Pierce area just before midnight on September 25th. Hurricane Jeanne made landfall with at least 100kts or 115mph. I measured a pressure on I-95 between Stuart and Ft.Pierce of 953mb, this was after observing winds of over 100mph at times near Riviera Beach, Florida. From my observation the eastern eyewall in Port St. Lucie was not as intense as the SW part near Riviera Beach. Unlike hurricane Frances six week earlier Jeanne's destructive winds and heaviest rains were more concentrated closer to the center of the storm. The hurricane continued WNW to NW in the direction of Tampa then turned NNW just inside the coastline then into Georgia as a weakening tropical storm then depression.
Typhoon 28W, "Nock-Ten"
Seeing as I haven't had enough tropical cyclones in one season I decided to head out to the western pacific and attempt to chase a typhoon. I had to setup a flight schedule at least two weeks in advance to get a decent airfare, so I picked October 18th as is looked like the Atlantic season was pretty much dead by then and late October to mid-December is prime time for typhoon's threatening the islands around and including Guam.
On October 13th a system was organizing near the Marshall Islands around latitude 10N and longitude 165E. The next day the system was designated tropical storm 28W. The next couple days the tropical storm appeared to be struggling to intensify because a much larger typhoon 27W just to the NW of Guam. At the same time a large upper low west of Hawaii was restricting the outflow on its northern and eastern semicircle. Regardless of these problems typhoon Nock-Ten was able to intensify slowly but steady. Guidance model data for several runs indicated an almost direct impact on Guam 24 hours after I was scheduled to arrive. The model data continued to show this trend until just before I arrived at the Guam airport. When I arrived I was given data that showed the previous data was tracking the storm too far north. On October 20th I went to the south coast of the island and observed a very turbulent ocean with high surf and storm surge at the location where I filmed the storm surge associated with super typhoon "Yuri" in 1991. The CPA (closest point of approach) of the center was around 130 miles to the SSW during the late afternoon, at the time the storm was at CPA the winds near the center were 110mph. The next several days the typhoon moved on a steady WNW course then recurved along the eastern side of Taiwan. The typhoon peaked out at 125mph about mid-way between Guam and Taiwan on October 22 and 23rd. 
All Images Copyright Jim Leonard