Tropical Storm Floyd: Flooding and Damaging Wind
Thursday September 16, 1999

Floyd moved through the northern Bahamas islands as a category 4 hurricane with 150 mph sustained winds on Tuesday September 14.  The proximity of Floyd to the southeast U.S. coast prompted the largest peace time evacuations of coastal Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina.   Very good track predictions from the National Hurricane Center had Floyd taking a northward turn before directly impacting Florida and Georgia.  Floyd behaved by-passing Florida, Georgia, and even South Carolina with the coastlines only being grazed by tropical storm force wind gusts.  Hurricane Floyd made landfall near Wilmington, NC at 3:00am on Thursday September 16 with 110mph sustained winds and torrential rain.   The storm, caught in a fast south, southwest flow, churned up the coastal plain through the day on Thursday, arriving on long Island by 8pm, southeast CT by 11pm, and Boston by 3am on the 17th. Floyd lost its tropical characteristics and became extratropical during the late morning of the 17th in the Gulf of Maine.  Floyd's impacts on New York and New England were severe.  Excessive rain produced extensive flooding and a period of high wind gusts downed trees and power lines knocking out power to thousands.

Rainfall amounts ranging from five to thirteen inches occurred across upstate New York and western New England through the course of Floyd's passage.  Floyd, however, was only partially responsible for the excessive rainfall.  A cold front and upper atmospheric low pressure system also contributed to the heavy rain accumulations.

The cold front had moved through New York earlier in the week and had stalled over New England.  The front stretched from Portland, Maine, southwest through Worcester, MA, to near New York City on the 16th.   Much cooler and drier air lay on the western side of the front throughout New York and western New England.  Temperatures and dewpoints remained in the 50's on the cold side of the front on the 16th.  East of the front temperatures and dewpoints ranged from the mid 60's to low 70's.  The circulation around Floyd tapped the abundant supply of deep tropical moisture and threw it westward up and over the stalled front enhancing the rainfall.  The front acted as an overrunning surface with the cold dense air on the west side forcing the warm moist air to rise more than it otherwise would if the air mass ahead of Floyd had been uniformly warm and moist.  Therefore, extra rain was rung out across the region.

The third and final element which enhanced the rain during Floyd was a strong areas of low pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere at about the 30,000 foot level.  The upper low helped steer Floyd more northward up the coast and also helped enhance the vertical motions in the atmosphere over the  Northeast.  The enhancement to the lift produced heavier rain.  The combination of Floyd's moisture and low level circulation interacting with the stalled front and upper level low pressure system acted to produce the tremendous rainfalls which occurred with the storm.  Had the front and upper low not been present, rainfall amounts likely would have been at least half of what actually occurred.  A good analog to Floyd is Tropical Storm Bertha which took a similar track in early July, 1996.  Maximum rainfall amounts in upstate New York occurred in the eastern Catskills and ranged from four to seven inches.  There were no other weather players when Bertha came up the coast, therefore, less rainfall accumulated as compared with Floyd.

By 5pm, Hurricane Floyd had been downgraded to tropical storm Floyd with top sustained winds of 60 mph.  Floyd was moving towards Long Island at this time but had already produced up to six inches of rain over eastern New York.  Flooding was developing throughout the region and general flash flood warnings were issued for most counties in eastern New York and western New England.  Small stream, creek, and urban flooding closed or washed out numerous roads in the region.  Rain continued to fall though the night and into Friday, the 17th, though at lesser intensity and over a much smaller area on Friday.  Sunshine broke through the clouds late in the day on the 17th as Floyd moved farther away. The table below lists both storm total rainfall reports from National Weather Service cooperative observers and from the WRGB WeatherNet 6 weather watcher network.

County Town Sate Rainfall Total
Albany Guilderland NY 8.45"
Albany Voorheesville NY 8.40"
Albany Preston Hollow NY 8.30"
Albany Ravena NY 8.00"
Albany Westerlo NY 8.00"
Albany Loudonville NY 7.80"
Albany Delmar NY 7.00"
Albany Albany Airport NY 6.12"
Albany Green Island NY 4.75"
Bennington Pownal VT 7.20"
Bennington Bennington VT 4.70"
Berkshire Pittsfield MA 8.10"
Berkshire Great Barrington MA 5.50"
Berkshire Lanesborough MA 4.50"
Columbia Chatham NY 12.0"
Columbia W. Lebanon NY 6.20"
Columbia Copake NY 5.80"
Columbia W. Taghkanic NY 5.25"
Columbia Claverack NY 4.80"
Delaware Roxbury NY 6.75"
Delaware Fleischmanns NY 5.80"
Dutchess Millbrook NY 5.64"
Dutchess Poughkeepsie NY 5.25"
Fulton Gloversville NY 3.90"
Fulton Johnstown NY 3.05"
Fulton Northville NY 2.70"
Greene Round Top NY 12.9"
Greene Cairo NY 11.3"
Greene Prattsville NY 11.1"
Greene Windham NY 7.90"
Hamilton Wells NY 4.0"
Montgomery Ames NY 6.12"
Montgomery Canajoharie NY 5.90"
Montgomery Amsterdam NY 4.75"
Montgomery Fonda NY 4.40"
Otsego Worcester NY 6.30"
Otsego Schenevus NY 5.44"
Rensselaer East Greenbush NY 6.30"
Rensselaer Speigletown NY 6.60"
Rensselaer Hoosick Falls NY 6.11"
Rensselaer Stephentown NY 5.90"
Rutland West Pawlet VT 5.50"
Saratoga Ballston Spa NY 7.00"
Saratoga Burnt Hills NY 6.00"
Saratoga Mechanicville NY 6.00"
Saratoga S. Glens Falls NY 5.80"
Saratoga Saratoga Springs NY 5.17"
Saratoga Clifton Park NY 4.90"
Saratoga Galway NY 4.50"
Schenectady Delanson NY 9.80"
Schenectady Schenectady NY 8.24"
Schenectady Rotterdam NY 7.80"
Schenectady Niskayuna (WRGB) NY 5.61"
Schoharie Middleburgh NY 6.25"
Schoharie Jefferson NY 6.00"
Schoharie Summit NY 4.26"
Ulster Kingston NY 4.18"
Warren Lake George NY 4.00"
Washington Hartford NY 8.00"
Washington Hebron NY 5.48"
Washington Hudson Falls NY 5.34"
Washington Salem NY 4.10"

A tight pressure gradient around Floyd due to the low central pressure of the weakening storm and an area of high pressure over the Ohio valley produced wind gusts to 50 mph, especially in the higher elevations.  High wind warnings were issued for eastern New York from Warren county on southward and for Bennington county, VT on southward in western New England. At the height of the storm 100,000 were without power and hundreds of trees region wide were felled.  Many trees that otherwise would not have fallen in winds of 40 to 50 mph went over due to the saturated ground from the excessive rain. Downed trees were reported to the National Weather Service in Albany in Millbrook in Dutchess county, Hoosick in Rensselaer county, Chatham, Catskill, Albany, Glens Falls, Granville, Malta, Brattleboro, Bennington, Dalton, New Milford in Litchfield county, CT, and in Schenectady.  The following is a listing of the peak wind gusts at some select reporting stations through the area.

Town, State County Time/Date Peak Gust
Albany Airport Albany 7:04pm/16th 49 mph
Glens Falls Warren 11:18pm/16th 46 mph
NWS Office in Albany Albany 4:30pm/16th 45 mph
Burlington, VT   5:55am/17th 43 mph
Florida, MA Berkshire 16th 43 mph
Poughkeepsie, NY Dutchess 9:45pm/16th 40 mph
Bennington, VT Bennington 5:00am/17th 36 mph
Rutland, VT Rutland 6:35am/61th 35 mph
Schenectady, NY Schenectady 9:52am/16th 35 mph
Pittsfield, MA Berkshire 7:34pm/16th 30 mph