Hurricane Hortense was the eighth named storm, the sixth hurricane, and the fourth major hurricane of the 1996 Atlantic hurricane season. Hortense was also the second Category 4 hurricane of the 1996 season. Hortense brought torrential rainfall and flooding as it moved through the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

Because it hit only one year after hurricanes Luis and Marilyn, and only weeks after Hurricane Bertha, Hortense killed 39 people and caused $158,000,000 (1996 USD) in damage.

Hortense near peak intensity
Formation September 3, 1996
Dissipation September 16, 1996
Highest winds 140 mph
Lowest pressure 935 mbar
Deaths 39 direct
Damages $158,000,000 (1996 USD)
Areas affected Guadeloupe, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland

Meteorological History

On August 30, a strong low-pressure system emerged off the coast of Senegal and began heading westward across the Atlantic Ocean. A well-defined low-level circulation quickly developed within the low, but convection was minimal, because of the influence of strong upper-level wind shear over the system. The shear abated enough to allow the low to refire shower activity, and on September 3, the low became Tropical Depression Eight. The depression moved westward under the influence of a high pressure system. Convection also remained minimal with the depression, due to persistent wind shear over the depression. As the depression approached the Lesser Antilles, upper-level wind shear rapidly decreased, and the system became Tropical Storm Hortense on September 7. After forming, Hortense moved slowly through the Leeward Islands on September 7 and September 8. Despite initial forecasts calling for quick strengthening to hurricane status, Hortense once again encountered unfavorable upper-level wind shear from a fast moving upper-level shortwave trough. Shear quickly abated, and Hortense reached hurricane status on September 9, while located in the northeastern Carribean Sea.

Hortense turned to the northwest, and passed over southwestern Puerto Rico near Guánica. After being overland for two hours, Hortense entered the Mona Passage, and paralleled the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic as an 80 mph Category 1 hurricane. Afterwards, Hortense moved northwest over the open Atlantic Ocean, passing north of the Turks and Caicos Islands, where hurricane conditions were reported. At this point, conditions became ideal for continued development, and Hortense underwent rapid intensification, becoming a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds and a pressure of 935 mbar on September 13. A developing trough brought Hortense to the northeast, and also produced strong upper-level wind shear that rapidly weakened Hortense. On September 15, as a Category 1 hurricane, Hortense passed over the southern Nova Scotian coastline, and then turned eastward. Later that day, Hortense became extratropical while south of Newfoundland, and on September 16, Hortense dissipated in the open Atlantic Ocean.


Lesser Antilles

Because Hortense was a large and wet hurricane, it produced about 10 inches of rain in Guadeloupe. No other damage occured in the rest of the Lesser Antilles.

Puerto Rico

Flooding from Hortense in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico received the worst from Hortense, with over 24 inches of rain occuring in the eastern mountainous region of the island. The extreme flooding led to numerous mudslides, which overflowed many rivers and damaged 11,463 houses. Around 1,400,000 people in Puerto Rico, which is about 40% of its population, lost power during the hurricane and after the hurricane. This put a strain on the cleanup efforts in the following days and weeks with lack of air conditioning, as well as spoiled food. After the storm, much of eastern Puerto Rico was declared a disaster area. In all, Hortense killed 18 people in Puerto Rico, caused $155,000,000 (1996 USD) in damage, and 80% of that damage occured from coffee and banana crop damage.

Dominican Republic

More flooding from Hurricane Hortense.

In the Dominican Republic, significant damage occured. Nearly 20 inches of rain fell in the country as a result of Hortense. One school and one church were destroyed by strong winds, with significant property damage occuring in the northeastern part of the country. Also, a 9-foot storm surge combined with the torrential rainfall killed 3 people, left 21 people missing, and caused significant crop damage.


The Bahamas fared pretty well from the storm, with little damage, and no casualties, thankfully.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, Hortense produced heavy rainfall and strong winds, which caused power outages, uprooted trees, and caused moderate structural damage amounting to $3,000,000 (1996 USD).


Because of its effects, the name Hortense was retired in the Spring of 1997 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was replaced by Hanna, which was used for the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season, and is on the list of names to be used for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

1996 Atlantic hurricane season