We’re chugging through one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record. We’ve seen 27 named storms so far this year—just one storm shy of the all-time record set back in 2005—and an unprecedented 11 of those named storms made landfall in the United States.
Hurricane forecasting and preparations have come a long way over the last few decades, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Going through such a prolific hurricane season gives us a unique opportunity to learn what we can do better to prepare for and recover from future storms.
1: Hurricanes Don’t Watch The Calendar
We’re still more than a month away from the end of hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, and we’re well past the peak of the season, which typically occurs during the second week of September.
The concepts of “hurricane season” and “peak season” are based on climatology, which gives us a good idea of when conditions are most favorable for tropical development across different parts of the Atlantic Ocean.
Even though those seem like hard boundaries, tropical cyclones can form before June 1 and after November 30. We have to keep our guards up and monitor the forecasts until the dry air of winter finally shuts down activity over the ocean.
Additional storms in the Caribbean and western Atlantic are certainly possible over the next couple of weeks. It’s worth pointing out that the last storm to form during that historic 2005 season formed on December 30.
2: The Number Of Storms Doesn’t Account For Their Impacts
While this is (so far) the second-most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, many of the storms that contributed to this year’s count were relatively weak and short-lived. However, even though we’ve seen a multitude of unremarkable tropical storms, this year would’ve been memorable in its own right even without the astronomical storm count.
Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, and Zeta all made landfall in the United States as hurricanes, and several of those storms left a tremendous amount of damage in their wake. And almost every one of those hurricanes intensified right up to the point of landfall, which made matters worse for communities affected by the storms.
3: A Close Call Doesn’t Mean The Next Storm Will Miss
Hurricanes Laura and Delta both tracked west of New Orleans. Hurricane Marco dissipated before reaching New Orleans. Hurricane Sally went east of New Orleans. So when the forecasts showed Hurricane Zeta making a direct hit on New Orleans this week, I heard plenty of “ah, it’ll turn” from folks who live in and near the city. Zeta’s eye went directly over downtown New Orleans, exposing a major city and its suburbs to 100 MPH winds.
While overall steering patterns generally favor one track over another, areas that experience close calls aren’t immune from getting hit by subsequent storms. Never let one storm instill a false sense of