Mid-November marks anniversary of 'Wrong Way' Lenny in the Atlantic

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
November 17, 2018, 8:30:18 AM EST

While there are currently no tropical threats in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Lenny was tracking the "wrong way" through the basin during mid-November 1999.

Lenny spent its entire lifespan (Nov. 13-23) traveling in a west-to-east fashion from the central Caribbean to the Atlantic, which is unprecedented in the history of tropical record keeping.

Tropical systems are typically guided westward from the Atlantic to the Caribbean by high pressure anchored over the Atlantic, then may curve to the northeast if they encounter a dip in the jet stream over or emerging from North America.

Lenny Nov 17

In Lenny's case, a large dip in the jet stream was in place over the western Atlantic when Lenny formed. That put the storm on its eastward track and on a collision course with the northern Leeward Islands.

Lenny reached its peak intensity on Nov. 17 as it slammed into St. Croix of the U.S. Virgin Islands with maximum-sustained winds of 155 mph (250 km/h). Lenny was not only a powerful Category 4 hurricane at that time, but also became the strongest November hurricane on record.

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Lenny was responsible for the deaths of 17 people, while its slow movement led to extremely high rainfall totals.

One observation site (Gendarmerie) on St. Martin reported 34.12 inches (867 mm) of rain--the hurricane's highest rain total. That amount includes a 24-hour record of 18.98 inches (482 mm) that poured down on Nov. 18.

After the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season, the name "Lenny" was officially retired.

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