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Hurricane Larry
The Great Christmas Hurricane of 2015
Category 6 major hurricane (SSHWS/HWS)
Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 8.52.14 PM
Hurricane Larry at Category 5 strength; approaching the Florida panhandle.
Formed December 13
Dissipated December 27
(Extratropical after December 26)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:
220 mph (350 km/h)
Lowest pressure 869 hPa (mbar); 25.66 inHg
Fatalities 2804
Damage $20.2 billion (2015 USD)
Areas affected The Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Virgin Islands); Southern Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee
Part of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Larry; most frequently referred to as The Great Christmas Hurricane of 2015, was an extremely severe and catastrophic off-season major hurricane that developed in late 2015, during an otherwise inactive season. Larry wreaked havoc for many on Christmas Day. It was the longest-lived off-season tropical cyclone ever to form. Besides its late-season formation and destruction, Larry was also the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded, which added to its streak of record-breaking statistics.

Hurricane Larry was famous for making landfall in Southern Florida on December 24 as a Category 5 Hurricane as well as slamming into the state of Florida on Christmas, causing chaos for the many who refused to evacuate because it was the Holiday Season. This storm was the only one in history that is known to have made landfall on Christmas, let alone being a hurricane that formed in December.

Meteorological history

Larry 2015 track (Christmas hurricane).png

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

On December 13, a tropical wave exited Africa and passed to the south of Cape Verde. Because of the time of year, the wave was given a near-zero chance of developing into a depression by the NHC. However, convection increased at the center of the system, thus the creation of Tropical Depression Twelve on December 14 at 6:30 A.M. EST. Within a few hours, the system moved west of Cape Verde and over the mid-Atlantic. The depression increased in size and stability, and at 10 A.M. on December 14, TD 12 became Tropical Storm Larry with increasing 50 MPH winds. However, the storm encountered high wind shear and cooler waters, so on December 16, Tropical Storm Larry once again became a depression. On December 17, things were not looking good for the system, as it became less organized and struggled to stay a depression. Somehow, miraculously, the storm battled to gain strength, encountering 64 °F and dry air, which should have killed off the storm altogether. However, on December 18, when the storm was about twenty-five miles from the Virgin Islands, it once again strengthened into a Tropical Storm. The system kept the name Larry, and later that day, at 10 A.M. EST, Tropical Storm Larry strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, thus becoming Hurricane Larry.

Larry made landfall in the Virgin Islands on December 18, and continued to shift northwest, making continuous landfalls in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba, killing near forty people overall and causing over $45 million in damages. However, by the time the system made landfall in Cuba on December 21, Hurricane Larry once again became a depression, this time showing signs of weakening. NOAA predicted the storm would dissipate over the Gulf of Mexico as an extratropical cyclone before having a chance at re-intensification. However, on December 21, the system moved over the Gulf, where moist, warm air; low levels of wind shear; and unusually warm water temperatures of 92 °F gave the struggling system a chance of re-intensifying. On December 22, the system once again became tropical for the third time. Later that day at 11:30 A.M. EST, Tropical Storm Larry intensified at an unbelievable rate, skipping the Category 1 and 2 ranking, jumping straight into a massive Category 3 storm with 125 MPH winds and a low pressure of 962 mbar, becoming the first major off-season storm of the season. On December 23, Larry continued to intensify at a rather unnerving rate, becoming a powerful Category 5 hurricane with 160 MPH winds. At this point, Hurricane Larry was about one day away from making landfall in the Florida panhandle.

On December 24 at 4 A.M. EST, Larry jumped the gun even further, strengthening at such an unbelievable rate NHC scientists were baffled. Larry was now an incredible Category 6 storm with 220 MPH winds and 869 mbar pressure, after a Hurricane Hunters aircraft flew into the eye of the storm, making it the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded worldwide, surpassing the all-time record of Super Typhoon Tip's pressure of 870 mbar in 1979. Larry was so massive it nearly took up the entire Eastern portion of the Gulf. At 8 P.M. EST, Hurricane Larry made landfall in two prime locations: Pensacola, FL and Gulf Shores, AL as a slightly weakened Category 5 storm with 175 MPH winds. Even before making landfall, rough seas flooded the beachfront properties along the entire Gulf Coast and the Floridan peninsula, stirred up from the Category 6 intensity. The storm's front portion took the entire night to pass, and the eye of the storm came over Christmas morning, December 25 at 5 A.M. EST. At 7 A.M. EST, the stronger second half moved over the area with winds exceeding 180 MPH. Hurricane Larry caused power outages all over the Gulf Coast and brought with it a forty foot high storm surge that flooded inner cities sitting twenty miles inland. The destructive winds ripped wooden houses from their foundations, snapped trees and power lines like toothpicks, and ripped the roofs off well-constructed buildings. Heavy rains obliterated views on highways, causing massive accidents and frequent stops along the way. Although, because of the intense wind, a stopped car would be blown off a road. An EF2 tornado touched down in Mobile, AL, making families sit in their basements through Christmas. Altogether, Hurricane Larry caused over 2,000 deaths and over $10 billion in damages. On December 26, the storm fell collided with a cold air mass sitting over the Upper South, severely weakening the storm but not killing it off completely. Now extratropical, the remnants of Hurricane Larry brought blinding rains to Tennessee, causing flash flooding and poor visibility on roadways. Winds still gusted at 60 MPH, snapping trees and causing blackouts as far North as Columbus, Ohio. The storm continued to weaken, becoming an official low-pressure system on December 27, continuing to move North, causing all sorts of problems. The high winds battered boats against docks in the Ohio River. The storm dumped over 3.5" of rain all over Ohio, which was having an above-average and mild winter with lots of sun, until that day. The remnants crossed over Lake Erie, spawning several waterspouts close to local beaches like Fairport Harbor. At 3 P.M. EST, the remnants of Larry crossed over into Canada, causing whiteout conditions that caused nearly thirty car accidents due icy roads and poor visibility due to heavy snow. Over one hundred people got frostbite due to negative temperatures and winds in excess of forty miles per hour. The remnants of Larry dissipated over Quebec at 8 P.M. EST on December 27. The Great Christmas Hurricane of 2015 was officially over.

Aftermath

Impact and damages

Hurricane Larry had a plethora of negative impacts on the U.S. and Canada. The storm totaled over $20 billion in damages and resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 people. Hurricane Larry brought nearly 5" of rain to Southern Florida, causing flash flooding, in addition to the forty foot storm surge that was more like a small tsunami when the storm made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane. Upon peak intensity, the storm made a direct landfall in Southern Florida, but due to the massive span of the storm, the outer bands reached as far as New Orleans, bringing 3" of rain and 40 MPH winds. A widespread power outage spread from Pensacola, FL to Cleveland, OH over the storm's 4-day span over land. The worst of the impacts were in Florida; a stretch of the Florida panhandle from Pensacola to Gainesville was inhospitable for nearly seven months before Hurricane King in 2016 swept through nearly the same spot and caused even more in damages and destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people. Due to the massive death toll and extraneous amount of money in damages, President Obama declared the Florida panhandle a disaster area.

Retirement

The name "Larry" was retired by the WMO for the extraneous amounts of damage caused by the storm, as well as the high death toll.

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