was one of the strongest hurricanes of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. Michelle was the 13th named storm out of 15 in the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season.
Michelle formed near Africa on October 16 and moved west. The storm showed little formation by October 23. She continued east as she started to get her act together. It first made landfall near Nicaragua on October 30 as Tropical Depression Fifteen. It brought 20 inches (500 mm) of rain to the hurricane-prone country which was hit by Hurricane Mitch a little over three years earlier.
The storm headed northeast on November 1 where it continued to strengthen. She became Tropical storm Michelle in the mid-afternoon hours that same day. It became a Category 1 hurricane the next day.
Michelle pounds Cuba
During the evening hours of Friday, November 2 to the next afternoon November 3, meterologists saw almost exponential strengthening from Michelle. The storm went from Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale with winds of 85 mph (140 km/h) to a moderate Category 4 with winds of 135 mph (220 km/h).
The storm's nearly stationary movement created a lot of apprehension to where this storm was going to go. The NHC issued Hurricane Watches and Warnings for Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, the Florida Keys, and all of the Bahamas late Saturday night.
On November 4, Michelle started to move. It moved northeast toward the South shore of Cuba. She completely crossed Cuba and weakened to a weak Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h). Michelle barely grazed South Florida with 50 mph (80 km/h) wind gusts and two tornadoes. No one was killed in Florida as a result from Michelle.
By mid-morning on November 5, the storm weakened even more to 85 mph (140 km/h) as the storm raced toward the Bahamas. Michelle caused little damage in the Bahamas. Michelle died when she was absorbed by a strong frontal system on November 6.
Casualties and damage
According to press reports, 17 people were killed as a result of Michelle: 6 in Honduras, 4 in Nicaragua, and 2 in Jamaica. Deaths in these countries were from severe flooding. Michelle claimed five lives in Cuba, mainly from damage. Four of the deaths came from a building collapse. The other death came from coastal drowning. Twenty-six people were classified as missing in Honduras and Nicaragua.
Although damage estimates for most areas affected by Michelle are not available, the hurricane caused $28 million in damage to the Cayman Islands. Ten thousand homes were reported destroyed in Cuba, and more than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate in Honduras and Nicaragua due to flooding. Jamaica was also affected by flooding, but again, estimates are not available. Minor damage was reported in Florida from tornadoes, and a NOAA WP-3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft was damaged during a mission into the storm.
Michelle was the strongest hurricane to hit Cuba since 1952. The name "Michelle" was retired and will be replaced in 2007 with Melissa.