|Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)|
1-minute sustained: |
145 mph (235 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||936 mbar (hPa); 27.64 inHg|
|Damage||$10 billion (2016 USD)|
|Areas affected||Senegal, Cape Verde, Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland, United Kingdom, Atlantic Canada, United States Eastern Seaboard, Bermuda, and Iceland|
|Part of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season|
Hurricane Alex was one of the costliest disasters ever known to occur in the history of Iceland. It was the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded so far north and east in the Atlantic Ocean. Alex formed on June 29 during the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season and caused astronomical devestation across most of the northern Atlantic Ocean coasts. The most severe caused occured in southern Iceland, where landslides and avalanches killed dozens of people trapped in their houses. The hurricane's massive size caused damage to occur even 1,500 miles from the center of the system. Alex was the first tropical storm, first hurricane, and first major hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season.
On June 25, a tropical wave the size of Iceland exited the African coast near Dakar, Senegal. It initially began with extremely weak convection, described as resembling a extratropical cyclone. Heavy wind shear was imminent around the disturbance, yet it abruptly intensified and began to show signs of deep organized on June 26. At 0600 UTC on June 27, a Hurricane Hunter flight was deployed into the system, now designated Invest 90L by the National Hurricane Center (NHC), and it was revealed to have lost most of its deep convection. It was declassifed as an invest, but 30 hours after the recon investigation, convection flared up, and signs of a closed circulation persisted. At 1200 UTC on June 29, another Hurricane Hunters flight confirmed a closed circulation. Therefore, Invest 90L had completed tropical cyclogenesis and was renumbered Tropical Depression One by the NHC approximately 100 miles northwest of Praia, Cape Verde.
Subsequently following the upgrade, exceptionally heavy wind shear entered the system, killing its deep convection. Despite this, the clouds within Tropical Depression One began absorbing moisture. Although its winds never exceeded 30 miles per hour (mph) before July 2, the barometric air pressure dropped from 1005 to 986 millibars (mb) between 1200 and 1800 UTC on June 30, showing a pressure more typical of a weak Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale|SSHS. Computer models on July 1 predicted the depression to take a path similar to Hurricane Chloe in 1967 or Hurricane Jeanne in 1998. Abruptly on July 2, around 1500 UTC, winds of 55 mph and an abnormally low pressure of 976 mb (more typical of a Category 2 hurricane on the SSHS) were recorded in a dory 500 miles north-northwest of Praia, thus leading the NHC to upgrade it to a tropical storm and naming it Alex. Upon being named, ensemble models forecasted Alex to explosive intensification to occur. By now, Alex was the size of Turkey and was in an extremely favorable enviorment. On July 3, Alex's winds were upped to 60 mph, but its pressure dropped to an extraordinarly low 957 mb. Simultaneously, the storm's structure began to transition int o a subtropical cyclone. A third Hurricane Hunters flight confirmed Alex had transitioned into a subtropical cyclone at 1200 UTC on July 4 300 miles west of La Palma. As a subtropical storm, Alex's gale force wind (38+ mph) field expanded to 800 miles (mi), resembling a Western Pacific tropical storm. For comparison, Alex was the size of the Midwestern United States. Around this time, a strong trough in the mid-Atlantic began steering Alex towards Iceland. By 0000 UTC on July 5, Alex transitioned back into a tropical cyclone. Suddenly, six hours later, a fourth Hurricane Hunters flight recorded 75 mph winds in the massive storm, prompting the NHC to upgrade Alex to a hurricane 500 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal. However, its pressure rapidly decreased again to 944 mb (more typical of a Category 4 hurricane) in six hours. Meteorologists called Alex "the bomb that only partially exploded" due to the wind and pressure measurements not corresponding.
Peak intensity and dissipation
In an even more bizzare event, between 0600 UTC and 1200 UTC on July 5, Alex's windspeed increased from 80 mph to 145 mph, while its barometric pressure only slightly dropped to 936 mb, all within 1,000 miles of the United Kingdom. Forecasters were getting upset due to Alex's abnormal antics. Furthermore, the massive hurricane's size expanded to an unprecedented 1,400 miles, stretching from Maine to Portugal. Luckily, cold sea surface temperatures (SST)'s caused Alex to explosively weaken as fast as it intensified, dropping to 80 mph/957 mb from 1800 UTC on July 5. It maintained this intensity until 1200 UTC on July 9. By this point, Alex was within 200 miles of southern Iceland and was nearly 1,940 miles wide. Finally, six hours after collapsing to a minor hurricane, the wide hurricane explosively weakened to a 45 mph, 1003 mb tropical storm, but it was as wide as Australia. At 2200 UTC, Alex made landfall over southern Iceland with 40 mph winds, a pressure of 1007 mb, and a diameter of 2,145 miles. The long-lived hurricane dissipated within two hours of landfall (at 0000 UTC on July 10).
On June 26, the great size of the pre-Alex wave prompted government officials throughout Cape Verde to ask local citizens to board up their homes and cancel all ocean activities due to expected heavy rain. Many citizens of Praia emptied supermarket shelves of food within several hours. Boats were tied up to piers, and houses were covered with wood throughout the islands. Everyone was prepared for the worst.
Azores President Vasco Cordeiro issued a nationwide urgent message in anticipation of Alex. He declared all buisnesses shut down and asked everyone to indefinitely postpone any outdoor events. Almost all of the citizens packed up on food and families huddled together, praying to avoid an unprecendented catastrophe. In addition, a tropical storm warning was issued for all the islands.
Small craft adviosries were issued for the majority of the Canary Islands. Shelters opened up throughout La Palma and Tenerife. Officials estimated dozens would be killed by such a rare event, even stronger than Tropical Storm Delta in 2005. Foue high school citizens offered to assist in the potential big recovery for Alex.
An exceptionally rare hurricane warning was issued for the entire coast of Portugal on July 3. Helicopters deployed a combined four pounds of beef, cheese, and pork to citizens throughout Lisbon. The torch route of the 2016 Summer Olympics was altered to avoid Portugal, the Canary Islands, and the Azores (the torch had just entered Lisbon). Approximately 400,000 flights were cancelled at Lisbon International Airport, and approximately 10,000 structures were boarded up.
Although Alex remained very far from Bermuda, high sea advisories caused the cancellation of nearly 750 boating events. Not prepared for this, citizens claimed they would do their best to prepare.
For the first time ever in Iceland's history, a tropical storm watch was issued on July 4 for the southern coast between Reykjavík and Djúpivogur. In this region, 254 refugee shelters opened, and an estimated 70,000 citizens took shelter in them. The prices of cod and many other food items dropped by as many as 90%. Mass evacuations were issued for the southern coast. Just about everyone fled to the refugee shelters or made last minute reservations to foriegn countries. Government officals soon upgraded the tropical storm watch to a hurricane warning due to Alex's massive size. The National Hurricane Center quoted the fact massive storm surges were poised to induate areas even 10 miles inland due to the extreme size of Hurricane Alex. By July 6, everyone had claimed they'd done their very best to board up for the storm.
Over fifty small craft advipsries were issued for all of Spain, and board sales in Madrid decreased by 5% (percent).