During the year of 1988, several events changed the lives of hundreds of people.
The summer Olympics, a presidential election, and Hurricane Gilbert Essay which tore
through Jamaica, part of Mexico and the United States. Hurricane Gilbert
occurred between September 10th and the 17th. Hurricane Gilbert was one of the
most wretched storms of the century. What had started out as a tropical storm,
grew into a terrible nightmare for those that lived in Jamaica.
of the storm was first seen by satellite on September 3rd 1988. This was
categorized as a tropical storm; a wrinkle in the uniformly eastern flow”
(Sheets 1). Gilbert was not only infamous for its’ category rating, but for the
barometric pressure which was the lowest recorded for an Atlantic storm. Causes
that contributed to the strength of Hurricane Gilbert include: atmospheric
conditions, the category rating, and the proximity of its’ eye. The effects of
the hurricane consisted of property damage, economic losses, casualties and some
solutions such as insurance and funds. Atmospheric conditions were some of the
factors that contributed to Hurricane Gilbert’s intensity.
Hurricane Gilbert had
extremely powerful winds that reached 160 knots which is about 175 mph and gusts
up to 121 mph (Stengel 18). At 10, 000 feet, Gilbert’s counterclockwise winds
reached up to 200 miles per hour, and at ground level the winds were around 175
mph (Stengel 17). With winds that strong, almost nothing could stop that storm.
When the winds began to spread out over a large area, they stirred the Atlantic
waters and brought cool water underneath the earth’s surface; therefore, causing
a reduction in the amount of rapid showers and thunderstorms (Sheets 1). Water
was another contributing factor in the destruction caused by Hurricane Gilbert.
Hurricane Gilbert formed in the same manner as most tropical storms do.
reason for Gilbert’s strength was the warm air placed itself in contact with the
water, the air became wet and was then moistened by evaporation” (Sheets
2). Hurricane conditions can only happen during warm months and over warm
waters. Storm surges only occur when the storm meets the land. Gilbert’s system
of low pressure and high winds created a dome of high and intense water that was
forced ashore. The water flow then caused storm surges which flooded many low
lying areas, such as, beaches and coastlines. The waves of the waters reached as
high as 30 feet.
Floods were another cause of destruction. Torrential rains
created sudden flooding as Hurricane Gilbert moved inland. As Gilbert’s winds
diminished, rainfall floods became Jamaica’s greatest threat. (Sheets 2). Air
mass was a third cause of destruction. During the summer of 1988, both Jamaica
and the United States were hot and humid.
A drought in the Midwestern United
States caused forest fires and harvesters had a hard season with the crops (Stengel
17). Since the air was relatively warm around the Caribbean and the Northeastern
part of South America, the humidity was significantly higher, and the sea
temperature was somewhat warm consequently causing the formation of Hurricane
Gilbert. Hurricane Gilbert’s barometric pressure reading was a very important
factor in it’s destructive force. A barometric pressure reading is the measure
of the storm’s strength. Hurricane Gilbert received the lowest sea level
pressure reading for a storm in the Western Hemisphere. Gilbert’s pressure
reading was recorded at 888 MB.
or 26.23 inches. Since Gilbert had a low
pressure reading, it was more likely to cause extreme damage. Hurricane Gilbert
received a rating or category of five on the Saffir/Simpson scale, which reads a
storms strength (Sheets 3). Category five is the highest level that a hurricane
can be rated at. This denotes that Gilbert was proficient enough to cause
“catastrophic damage” (“Hurricane Gilbert” 689).
hurricane to reach level five was Camille, a hurricane that occurred in 1969 (Trippet
18). When a hurricane such as Gilbert, that is rated a Category five, wind and
water damage are extremely dynamic. Windows can be blown out, trees up rooted
and mall buildings can be destroyed during a hurricane (“Hurricane
Info” 3). Hurricanes that are large in size, will usually have smaller
eyes, like Hurricane Gilbert. Hurricane Gilbert had an eye less than 10 miles in
diameter, but the hurricane covered the entire western half of the Caribbean as
well as southeastern parts of the Gulf of Mexico (Sheets 3). The vortex of
Gilbert was 450 miles in width (Stengel 17).
Even though the eye of Hurricane
Gilbert looked almost invisible, it still was readily visible. As the eye of
Gilbert turned and moved in .