Global Focus
Infrared satellite animation of Hurricane Isabel Hurricane Isabel Hits NC/VA (Click for 2.7MB Loop)
Global Hazards and Significant Events
September 2003
Hurricane Isabel struck the North Carolina/Virginia coast on September 18, bringing strong winds and heavy rains well inland. Additional information can be found below.

Drought conditions
Throughout much of the western United States, severe to extreme drought was widespread. Numerous wildfires were concentrated in areas of the northern Rockies, although seasonal wildfire activity remained below the 10-year average.

For more detailed information, see the U.S. drought pages.
Drought Monitor depiction as of September 24, 2003
larger image

Across Bosnia and Herzegovina, heat and dry conditions during the summer months promoted drought across many areas. The intensification of drought has forced numerous people to travel many kilometers to find water, as the cost of trucking water into communities was too expensive for most villages (IFRC).

In the United Kingdom, September was dry and warm. It was the driest month since 1997, with rainfall 58 percent of average. Sunshine in September averaged 6.06 hours of bright sunshine per day, or the most since the England and Wales sunshine measurements began in 1961. The Central England Temperature for January-September was 16.26°C (61.3°F), or the warmest January-September since records began in 1659 (UK Met Office).

Heavy rainfall and flooding
Map depicting flood-affected areas of Orissa state during late August and early September 2003
larger image
In India, heavy rains at the end of August and early September produced flooding across much of the state of Orissa. Flooding affected over 3,500 villages and resulted in 14 deaths (UNDP).
Exceptionally heavy rains affected the Sahel region of Africa during late August and into September. Flooding affected parts Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, causing at least 15 deaths and destroying thousands of homes (IFRC). In northern Nigeria, flooding was characterized as the worst in more than 20 years in Kaduna state. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes as the Kaduna River rose above the flood stage on September 7 (IFRC). Flood-affected areas of the Sahel of Africa
larger image
Precipitation anomalies across China during September 2003
larger image
Across China, landslides and floods in the northwestern province of Shaanxi killed at least 38 people by early September, and forced a half-million people from their homes (Reuters). Flooding was extensive along the Weihe, the largest tributary of the Yellow River.

Monsoonal rainfall that began in July in Pakistan resulted in significant flooding across the country. The rains affected more than 800,000 people leaving 250 dead, along with significant property damage (IFRC). The monsoon season in Pakistan typically runs through mid-September.

Precipitation anomalies across Mexico during September 2003
larger image
Heavy rains in early to mid-September across portions of central Mexico brought flooding to several states. Floods damaged thousands of homes and displaced thousands of people in the states of Querétaro, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacán and Veracruz (IFRC).

In Honduras, heavy rains during September 14-15 caused flooding along the Ulúa River, which damaged the country's agricultural and fishing sectors. The heaviest losses were reported in the province of Cortés, where plantain, corn and sugarcane were the crops most seriously affected (IFRC).

For an archive of flood events worldwide, see the Dartmouth Flood Observatory.

Severe Storms
Severe thunderstorms, including several confirmed tornadoes, spread across portions of the U.S. Mid-Atlantic coastal plain during September 22-23, 2003. Parts of Richmond, Virginia were hit with 160 km/hr (100 mph) wind gusts as the storms moved through, with 40,000 customers losing power in the state (Associated Press). More power outages occurred in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with an F-1 tornado causing damage in Delaware Township, New Jersey (New York Times). Storm reports during September 22-23, 2003 across the Mid-Atlantic region
larger image

Tropical Cyclones
Radar image of Hurricane Jimena passing south of Hawaii on September 1, 2003
Radar Image (Courtesy: NCAR)
Hurricane Jimena formed as a tropical depression on August 28 and reached hurricane strength by the 29th. Jimena weakened into a tropical storm as it passed south of the Big Island of Hawaii on September 1st. Maximum sustained winds on the 1st were 63 km/hr (34 knots or 39 mph) with gusts to 85 km/hr (46 knots or 53 mph) at South Point. As many as 1,500 people lost electricity on the Big Island and rainfall amounts ranged from 95 mm (3.74 inches) at the Hilo airport to 163 mm (6.42 inches) at Mountain View (NWS/CPHC).
Hurricane Fabian developed in the eastern Atlantic from a tropical wave on the 27th of August, several hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. Fabian became a tropical storm on the 28th and a hurricane on the 29th, and reached 'major hurricane' status (category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale) on the 30th. Fabian reached category 4 strength on the 31st, but did not reach maximum windspeeds of 230km/hr (125 knots or 145 mph) until September 1st. Hurricane Fabian on
larger image

Fabian passed near Bermuda on the 5th with maximum sustained winds on the island near 185 km/hr (100 knots or 115 mph) with gusts to 215 km/hr (115 knots or 132 mph). The storm was the strongest to hit the island since Hurricane Arlene in August 1963. The storm produced widespread power outages and damaged nearly one-quarter of the island's hotels and guest houses. The storm was responsible for 3 deaths in a boating accident east of the Canadian Maritimes (Reuters).

Tropical Storm Henri developed in the eastern Gulf of Mexico on the 3rd and weakened into a tropical depression before crossing Florida on the 6th. The effects of Henri were minimal, with some localized heavy rain and gusty winds. Henri dissipated by the 8th.

Infrared satellite image of Typhoon Maemi on September 11, 2003
larger image
Typhoon Maemi formed as a tropical depression on the 5th in the open waters of the Philippine Sea. Maemi reached typhoon status by the 7th, peaking out on the 10th with maximum sustained winds near 280 km/hr (150 knots or 170 mph). Maemi made landfall across southeastern South Korea on the 12th with maximum sustained winds near 195 km/hr (105 knots or 120 mph). The storm triggered landslides and floods that were responsible for at least 117 deaths, and forced 25,000 to evacuate their homes (OCHA). Estimated property damage was preliminarily set at $4.1 billion (USD), with 5,000 homes destroyed and another 13,000 damaged (OCHA).
Hurricane Isabel developed in the tropical Atlantic ocean as a tropical storm on September 6. Isabel reached hurricane intensity by the 7th, and strengthened to Category 5 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Isabel was the first category-5 hurricane in the Atlantic since Mitch in 1998. Typhoon Krovanh on August 25, 2003
larger image
Radar animation of Hurricane Isabel making landfall along the Outer Banks of North Carolina on September 18, 2003
Click for Animation
Isabel tracked northwestward and made landfall along the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a category-2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 160 km/hr (85 knots or 100 mph). Heavy rain from the hurricane had spread well inland over much of the Mid-Atlantic region during the afternoon and evening of the 18th, along with a broad area of tropical storm to hurricane force wind gusts over eastern North Carolina, eastern Virginia and northward to the New Jersey shore.
Isabel brought a storm surge of 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters) to the Outer Banks, which cut a new inlet near Cape Hatteras Village. Strong winds well inland resulted in power outages for 1.8 million Dominion Power customers in Virginia and North Carolina, the largest outage in the company's history (Associated Press). Preliminary damage estimates are around $1 billion, likely adding Isabel to the list of U.S. Billion Dollar Weather Disasters. There were at least 40 fatalities, with 25 of them in Virginia (Associated Press). Isabel's inland track and rainfall reports
larger image

Rainfall totals from Hurricane Isabel are available, as well as a detailed comparison of Isabel with past hurricanes, Hugo and Floyd.

Satellite image of Hurricane Marty near Mexico's Baja Peninsula on September 22, 2003
larger image
Hurricane Marty developed as a tropical depression in the eastern Pacific Ocean on the 19th. Marty made landfall along Mexico's Baja Peninsula on the 22nd near San Jose del Cabo with maximum sustained winds near 160 km/hr (85 knots or 100 mph). Marty weakened as it tracked northward across the Gulf of California, spreading heavy rains as far north as Arizona by the 24th. Marty was responsible for 10 deaths, and was the second hurricane in less than a month to affect Baja California (Reuters/AFP).
Typhoon Choi-Wan passed east of Japan on the 21st but fringe effects from the storm caused gusty winds and locally heavy rainfall for coastal areas of eastern Japan. Typhoon Choi-Wan as it passed east of Japan on September 21, 2003
larger image
Satellite image of Hurricane Juan south of Nova Scotia on September 28, 2003
larger image
Hurricane Juan developed in the Atlantic Ocean well southeast of Bermuda as a tropical depression on the 25th. Juan moved north and made landfall in Nova Scotia late on the 28th/early on the 29th as a hurricane. Winds in Halifax gusted to 143 km/hr (77 knots or 89 mph), producing widespread power outages and wind damage, and resulting in two deaths (CNN/Associated Press). A state of emergency was declared in Halifax, and 150,000 people remained without power as of the 30th (Reuters).

Extratropical Cyclones

No reports of significant extratropical cyclones were received during September 2003

Severe winter weather

No reports of severe winter weather were received during September 2003.


Basist, A., N.C. Grody, T.C. Peterson and C.N. Williams, 1998: Using the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager to Monitor Land Surface Temperatures, Wetness, and Snow Cover. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 37, 888-911.

Peterson, Thomas C. and Russell S. Vose, 1997: An overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network temperature data base. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 78, 2837-2849.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Hazards for September 2003, published online October 2003, retrieved on July 18, 2024 from