Hurricane Lili began her trek towards Louisiana on Sept. 21 several hundred miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands.  Lili was a disorganized system for most of her life.  She, however, more than made up for her shaky start toward the end of her life.  The storm moved steadily on a west-northwest track crossing the southern Windward Islands as a minimal tropical storm.  Lili then intensified in the eastern Caribbean nearly reaching hurricane strength south of Puerto Rico on Sept. 24 with winds of 70 mph.

Poor upper level atmospheric conditions weakened Lili back to a tropical depression for 24 hours on Sept. 26 at 1500 Z.  By the 1500 Z report on Sept. 27, Lili had once again regain her Tropical Storm status with winds of 40 mph.  Lili fluxuated in strength through Sept 29 while north of Jamaica.  Finally, on Sept. 30 at 1500 Z, she made category 1 hurricane status just northwest of Jamaica with winds of 75 mph.

With Lili in a growingly favorable environment, all models indicated significant strenghening.  She did not disappoint.  In fact, Lili exceeded model predictions.  The storm became a major category 3 storm with winds of 120 mph at 1500 Z on Oct. 2 and continued to "bomb" into a dangerous category 4 storm at 1800 Z on Oct. 3.  Lili's winds peaked at 145 mph with a minimum central pressure of 938 mb or 27.70 inches of mercury.

Coastal residents of Louisiana prepared for the worst, as a devastating hurricane approached the central Louisiana coast.  Even inland residents were preparing for damage with inland hurricane and tropical storm watches/warnings extending as far north as southern Arkansas.  As quickly as Lili bombed, she began to weaken just as the storm approached the coast.  She crossed the central Louisiana coast on the western side of Vermilion Bay and Marsh Island as a category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph, weaker than forecast.

Lili continued her march northward toward Alexandria spawning tornadoes along the way.  The center of Lili, now downgraded to a tropical storm, crossed Monroe around 10 PM, October 3.  Winds in and around the Monroe were sustained at 25-35 mph with gusts over 50 mph producing tree damage and power outages across the region.  Radar estimates along with actual reports indicated that 2-5 inches of rain fell along Lili's path over northeast Louisiana.  Richwood High School's weather station recorded a 52 mph gust at 7:05 PM and a low pressure of 29.28" at 9:50 PM.

Why did Lili "bomb" into a category 4 storm?  Why did she weaken just a quickly?  These are questions that meteorologists and tropical experts will ponder for years to come.  As for why Lili strengthened so quickly is still not understood other than conditions in the central gulf were primed for rapid intensification.  More direct evidence is present as to why the storm weakened, however.  Lili encountered cooler waters in the northern gulf near the coast.  In addition, upper level support began to break down ahead of an approaching longwave trough across the central United States.

When the center of Lili reached Alexandria, she began to pull in dry air from the west, as evident on radar images.  This was the final blow to the storm.  Lili quickly weakened into a tropical depression north of Monroe and was pulled into the approaching cold front in the Mid-West.

Graph of Lili's weather conditions as she passed over Monroe, Louisiana at 10 PM, October 3, 2001.  The black line represents the barometric pressure, the white line represents peak wind gusts, and the red line indicates wind direction.

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Satellite/Radar Images of Lili
Click on images below for a larger size
Visible image at peak intensity - 145 mph
Close up of Lili at peak intensity - 145 mph
Color enhanced infrared at peak intensity - 145 mph
Visible image of Lili at landfall - Vermilion Bay, Louisiana
Color enhanced infrared image at landfall
Lake Charles radar of Lili making landfall
Fort Polk radar of Lili nearing Alexandria, Louisiana
Shreveport radar of Lili over Monroe, Louisiana

Lily as she moves over Monroe, Louisiana

Red Cross Disaster Relief Truck Parks in Monroe Tuesday Night Enroute to South Louisiana