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Preliminary Report
Tropical Storm Josephine
4 - 8 October 1996

Richard J. Pasch
National Hurricane Center
21 February 1997

Tropical Storm Arthur
Hurricane Bertha
Hurricane Cesar
Hurricane Dolly
Hurricane Edouard
Hurricane Fran
Tropical Storm Gustav
Hurricane Hortense
Hurricane Isidore
Tropical Storm Josephine
Tropical Storm Kyle
Hurricane Lili
Hurricane Marco

[1996 Atlantic Hurricane Season]

Josephine made landfall in the eastern Apalachee Bay, Florida area as a 60-knot tropical storm.

a. Synoptic History

The origin of Josephine does not appear to be directly related to a tropical wave. On 29-30 September, a front, which had moved over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, stalled over that area. A broad area of cloudiness and showers was noted over the southwest Gulf beginning around this time. This disturbed weather appears to have been caused mainly by the front, but could also be partially ascribed to a tropical wave which passed over the extreme southern Gulf on 29 September. This wave led to the formation of Hernan in the eastern Pacific. A broad area of low pressure developed near the Bay of Campeche on 1-2 October, but upper-tropospheric winds were only marginally favorable for development, and the associated deep convection was not persistent until the 3rd. The surface circulation became better defined on the 4th, on which day the system received its initial Dvorak classification from the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB). Meanwhile, the strong pressure gradient between the low and a large high pressure system centered near the Great Lakes began to produce strong winds across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

An Air Force Hurricane Hunter plane was dispatched to the system on the afternoon of the 4th and data from the aircraft indicated that a tropical cyclone, Tropical Depression Ten, had formed. Based on aircraft, surface and satellite data, the estimated time of genesis is 1800 UTC 4 October. The post-analysis "best track" is shown in Table 1 and Figure 1 (125K GIF). Initially, steering currents were weak and the depression moved slowly north-northeastward on the 4th and 5th. Southwesterly shearing was present over the system and there was no significant increase in organization until the 6th. Even though the depression did not intensify during the first couple of days of its existence, the strong pressure gradient persisted over the northern Gulf, producing gale to storm force winds over that area. By midday on the 6th, aircraft observations indicated that the central pressure had dropped to 1001 mb. Banding features on satellite images became better defined and it is estimated that the cyclone strengthened into Tropical Storm Josephine at 1800 UTC 6 October.

A strong mid-latitude, deep-layer trough began to dominate the eastern half of the United States, and on the 6th and 7th the tropical storm was steered eastward to northeastward, at an increasing forward speed, on the southeast flank of this trough. Early on the 7th, Josephine strengthened significantly and was nearing hurricane intensity. This development trend proved to be temporary, however, as vertical shear began to increase over the northeast Gulf. Josephine's cloud structure became more asymmetric, with nearly all of the deep convection northeast of the center. The storm's intensity leveled off at 60 knots. The center moved over Apalachee Bay on the evening of the 7th, and crossed the coast in a relatively uninhabited region of north Florida, in Taylor County, at about 0330 UTC on the 8th of October.

Josephine was already beginning to lose its tropical characteristics when it crossed the coast, since temperature at Keaton Beach dropped about 6C in one hour shortly after the storm moved inland. The system became an extratropical cyclone by the time it entered Georgia at 0600 UTC 8 October. The cyclone's forward speed increased dramatically, to near 40 knots, and the extratropical low raced northeastward near the U.S. east coast, passing close to Cape Cod at 0600 UTC on the 9th. The low traversed Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on 9-10 October, and then emerged over the north Atlantic. It moved eastward for a day or two, slowing its forward speed. Then the system tracked counter-clockwise within a deep-layer cyclonic flow regime over the northeastern Atlantic on the 12th through the 15th. Finally, the extratropical remnant of Josephine merged with a larger extratropical cyclone in the vicinity of Iceland on 16 October.

b. Meteorological Statistics

Figures 2 (22K GIF) and 3 (23K GIF) depict the curves of minimum central sea-level pressure and maximum one-minute average "surface" (10 meters above ground level) wind speed, respectively, as a function of time. Also plotted are the observations on which the curves are based, consisting of aircraft reconnaissance data from the U.S. Air Force Reserves (the Hurricane Hunters), Dvorak-technique estimates (from the TAFB, the Synoptic Analysis Branch, and the U.S. Air Force Global Weather Center) using satellite imagery, and fixes from synoptic weather map analyses.

The minimum central pressure reported in Josephine, by the Hurricane Hunters, was 981 mb at 1135 UTC 7 October. Highest flight-level (850 mb) winds near that time were 66 knots. The maximum flight-level wind reported by reconnaissance aircraft was 74 knots at 0050 UTC 8 October. Josephine's maximum surface winds were estimated to be 60 knots from 1200 UTC on the 7th up to landfall 16 hours later. Aircraft observations indicated that, at most, a partial eyewall was present on three center fixes during the above period.

Table 2 lists ship reports of tropical storm force winds associated with Josephine. There were additional reports (not included in this table) of gale to storm force winds from ships over the northern and western Gulf of Mexico that were estimated to be not within the circulation of the tropical cyclone. Table 3 lists selected surface observations from Florida.

Storm surge heights were "significant" from the Tampa area northward to eastern Apalachee Bay. County officials estimated storm tides (storm surge plus astronomical tide) ranged from up to 9 feet in Levy county to 4 to 6 feet in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, and 3 feet as far south as Lee County. These tides produced widespread flooding of roads, dwellings, and businesses.

According to reports from National Weather Service Offices, at least 16 tornadoes occurred in association with Josephine over northern and central Florida. These caused mostly minor damage, primarily to trees. One tornado, however, had a 7 mile long, 400 yard wide track across Edgewater in Volusia County. It severely damaged 30 homes, while 100 others had minor damage.

Rainfall amount of up to 8.5 inches were reported over northern Florida in association with Josephine.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

Total insured losses from Josephine in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia are estimated to be $65 million. This gives a rough estimate of $130 million for the total storm damage. There were no deaths that could be directly attributed to Josephine. A woman suffered a heart attack during a tornado in Edgewater, and a surfer suffered a broken leg in Pinellas County.

d. Forecast and Warning Critique

There were some large track forecast errors for Josephine; the number of cases was rather small, however. The average 12-, 24-, 36-, 48-, and 72-hr official forecast errors were 70, 131, 203, 266, and 401 n mi respectively. These are 41% to 49% larger than the most recent 10-year average track errors. The sample size was only 8 cases for 12 through 48 hours, and 7 cases for 72 hours. The intensity forecasts were generally off by 10 knots or less for all time periods.

Table 4 lists the various watches and warnings that were issued for Josephine. There was about 19 hours between the issuance of the tropical storm warning and landfall in Taylor County.

Table 1. Best track, Tropical Storm Josephine, 4-8 October, 1996.
Position Pressure
Wind Speed
Lat. (°N)Lon. (°W)
4/180022.796.2 100325tropical depression
5/000023.0 96.1100330"
060023.396.0 100330"
120023.695.8 100330"
180024.395.5 100330"
6/000024.895.0 100230"
060025.094.5 100230"
120025.193.5 100330"
180025.191.8 100135 tropical storm
7/000025.590.4 99640"
060025.988.9 99250"
120026.987.3 98160"
180028.286.0 98360"
8/000029.384.5 98360"
060030.982.3 99045extratropical
120034.079.0 98845"
180036.076.0 98645"
9/000038.073.5 98345"
060041.071.0 98045"
120042.568.0 98045"
180044.565.5 98445"
10/000046.562.5 98545"
060048.558.0 98545"
120049.555.0 98345"
180050.550.0 98445"
11/000051.044.0 98445"
060051.038.0 98645"
120051.032.0 98845"
180051.026.0 98945"
12/000051.021.0 98545"
060051.018.0 98045"
120051.516.5 98245"
180052.515.5 97750"
13/000053.015.5 97355"
060053.515.5 97160"
120054.015.5 97255"
180055.515.5 97750"
14/000057.5 16.098245"
060060.018.0 97745"
120061.020.0 97245"
180062.022.0 97045"
15/000062.524.0 97245"
060063.026.0 97845"
120063.028.0 98340"
180063.029.5 98835"
16/000063.030.5 99230"
0600      merged with larger low
7/120026.987.3 98160minimum pressure (as a tropical system)
8/033030.083.9 98360 landfall in Taylor County, midway between
Dekle Beach and St. Marks, Fla.

Table 2. Ship reports of 34 knots or higher wind speed associated with Tropical Storm Josephine, October, 1996.
ship namelatitude
wind dir/speed
06/1800ELPG925.190.1 190/351000.5
06/2100ELPG924.590.5 220/41995.8
07/0900KCZC27.4 89.7 050/40 1000.0
07/09009VBK28.789.6 030/411004.0
07/1200KCZC27.589.7 030/401000.5
07/12009VBK28.889.4 050/381003.5
07/1500C6JN29.487.7 050/481001.8
07/1500KCZC27.789.6 030/401002.0
07/15009VBK29.089.0 040/501003.5
07/1800C6JN29.387.7 040/58998.6
07/1800ELFT823.584.3 220/341010.5
07/1800ELRV222.887.3 230/351000.1
07/1800KCZC27.789.5 030/401003.0
07/1800WCHF28.188.6 020/441008.8
07/1800WGXN24.785.2 190/45994.1
07/1800WLBV24.585.6 210/44999.2
07/18003EKI321.985.1 200/351003.5
07/18009VBK29.488.9 020/551003.0
07/2100C6JN29.287.7 030/49998.8
07/2100KCZC27.889.4 020/401003.0
07/21009VBK29.789.4 010/351004.7
08/0000C6JN29.287.7 020/47999.9
08/0000ELFT822.385.2 200/341010.4
08/0000KCZC27.889.4 030/351003.5
08/0000KGDF27.190.3 340/351004.0
08/0300C6JN29.287.7 010/381003.0
08/0300KCZC27.989.3 030/351006.3
08/0300WCHF26.085.8 300/38999.5

Table 3. Tropical Storm Josephine selected surface observations, October, 1996.
(kt) a
(UTC) b
(ft) c
(ft) d
Arcadia/Horse Ck         5.66
Brooksville995.908/0037 213607/1917   1.58
Cedar Key992.608/0000 3543 08/0200   
Clearwater tide gauge   36 5108/0100    
Dekle Beach        6.0 
Foley (Taylor County)         8.50
Fort Myers999.708/1007 3747 08/0947   1.92
Horseshoe Beach    44 08/0223    
Inverness         2.93
Jacksonville Airport992.208/0256  41 08/0654   6.15
Jacksonville Naval Air Stn. Station     3608/0650   5.88
Jacksonville Cecil Field993.208/0337  42 08/0124  5.86
Keaton Beach991.908/0100  29 * 08/0000    
Lake Iamonia (Leon County)          5.73
Lakeland999.307/2351 202807/2351   1.51
Macdill AFB997.307/2355 304808/0410   3.51
Madison         5.10
Mayport Naval Station993.2 08/0555 39 08/0758  4.19
Melbourne999.008/0750 153408/0715   1.57
Mill Creek (Madison County)          6.14
Monticello         4.50
New Port Richey996.3 08/00232637 08/0005  2.53
Old Port Tampa   3556 08/0524   
Orlando (MCO)997.308/0804 263408/0323   0.78
Perry         5.07
Punta Gorda999.308/0954 3649 08/1016  1.42
Ruskin         2.59
Secatan (Taylor County)          7.90
St. Petersburg996.6 07/2355293908/0051   2.90
St. Pete pier   283808/0054    
St. Petersburg uncom. ASOS995.9 08/001436 4208/0344    
Sarasota/Bradenton Airport998.3 07/22502740 08/0150  2.57
Steinhatchee        6.9 
Sunshine Skyway993.008/0154 3962 07/2345   
Suwannee        9.3 
Tallahassee993.508/0229 253408/0229   7.79
Tampa Airport996.608/0029 234608/0257    
Tampa Palms (Ira Brenner)         5.53
Venice1000.207/2300 334308/0000    
Winter Haven998.308/1026 273508/0627   2.76

a NWS standard averaging period is 1 min; ASOS and C-MAN are 2 min; buoys are 8 min.

b Date/time is for sustained wind when both sustained and gust are listed.

c Storm surge is water height above normal astronomical tide level.

d Storm tide is water height above NGVD.

* May not have been peak value

Table 4. Watch and warning summary, Tropical Storm Josephine, October 1996.
7/0300 tropical storm watch issued Apalachicola to Venice, Florida
7/0900 tropical storm warning issued Apalachicola to Venice, Florida
7/1200 hurricane warning issued Apalachicola to Anclote Keys, Florida
tropical storm warning issued west of Apalachicola to Fort Walton Beach, Florida
7/1500 tropical storm warning issued Cape Canaveral, Florida to Little River Inlet, South Carolina
8/0300 hurricane warning downgraded to tropical storm warning Apalachicola to Anclote Keys, Florida
tropical storm warning discontinued west of Apalachicola to Fort Walton Beach, Florida
8/0900 tropical storm warning changed to gale warning Cape Canaveral, Florida to Little River Inlet, South Carolina
tropical storm warning discontinued Apalachicola to Venice, Florida

Brian Maher
Jack Beven

Last updated December 29, 1998