Hurricane Elena - August 28-September 6, 1985

  A well organized cloud pattern moved out of the Sahara Desert and was first identified on satellite
imagery north of the Cape Verde Islands on the 23rd of August.  The system moved unusually fast;
30-35 mph to the west across the Atlantic.  This combined with the dry saharan air mass around the
system apparently inhibited the formation of a tropical cyclone until it approached Cuba on the evening
of the 27th.  On the 28th, reconnaissance aircraft measured 50-60 mph winds in its northern periphery
while the system was centered over central Cuba, and tropical storm Elena was born.

After moving into the Gulf of Mexico north of Havanna, Elena quickly strengthened into a hurricane
on the 29th.  A cold front approached from the northwest, which collapsed the steering currents around
Elena, and the storm began recurvature.  It approached Florida, moving quite close to Tampa Bay and
Cedar Key, before high pressure bridged the frontal boundary and steered Elena back towards the west.
The cyclone intensified as it accelerated west-northwest, and was a major hurricane by the afternoon of
the 1st.  On the 2nd, the hurricane made landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi.  Bursting convection after moving
inland, Elena brought locally heavy rains to Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky over the succeeding four
days that the system maintained integrity while it was inland.  After the night of the 5th, the remaining
cloud system became stretched in a north-south axis and quickly faded while moving eastward across

Below are storm total rainfall maps for Elena.  Rainfall information was obtained from the National
 Climatic Data Center.  Note the maxima shifts from west of the track to east of the track once Elena
 moved inland.  This could have been due to an upper low that remained quasi-stationary in the
Tennessee Valley.

Hurricane Elena (1985) Rainfall Hurricane Elena (1985) Rainfall Hurricane Elena (1985) Rainfall