A breakdown of the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity and expected damage for each category.


Story Highlights

  • Of the 30 storms, 12 hit U.S. shores, also a record number. The previous record was 9.
  • October and November were extremely active with seven storms and a whopping 4 major hurricanes.
  • In the U.S., Hanna, Laura and Zeta all rapidly intensified in the 24 hours prior to landfall.

It’s officially over.

After six long months and 30 storms from Arthur to Iota, the record-shattering 2020 Atlantic hurricane season ends Monday. 

“I didn’t think I would live to see that, but it’s happened,” Penn State University meteorologist Michael Mann told USA TODAY, referring to the record number of named storms in a single season.

A typical season sees only 12 storms. 

All preseason forecasts said an active season was likely, but none came close to the actual number. “Our group here at Penn State predicted an unusually active season, as many as 24 named storms – the most of any of the preseason predictions,” Mann said. “But even THIS wasn’t aggressive enough a forecast.”

Of the 30 storms, 12 hit U.S. shores, also a record number. The previous record was nine, set way back in 1916. 

It was the fifth consecutive season with above-normal activity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. There have been 18 above-normal seasons out of the past 26. 

“I think really what stood out to me about 2020 was the extremely active late season,” said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. “October and November were extremely active with seven storms and a whopping four major hurricanes (Delta, Epsilon, Eta and Iota).”

Before this year, Klotzbach said, no October-November had more than two major hurricane formations.

Although the official end of the hurricane season is Monday, storms can form in December. Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center monitored a low-pressure area Sunday in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean for possible subtropical development. If the area becomes a named storm, it would be called Kappa, the 31st named storm of the season.

December tropical storms and hurricanes are exceedingly rare. “Only one season on record has had more than one named storm form in December, and that was all the way back in 1887,” Klotzbach said. 

When will it end? When will this relentless Atlantic hurricane season finally end?

Rapid intensification marked this season

A major hurricane has wind speeds of at least 111 mph and reaches Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity. 

Eta and Iota smashed into Central America as Category 4 storms in November, leaving hundreds dead and widespread misery and destruction. Iota was briefly a Category 5 before weakening and hitting land as a Cat 4. 

“One of the most notable features of 2020 was all of the intensifying (and often rapidly intensifying) hurricanes we had up until the point of landfall,” Klotzbach told USA TODAY. “Most notably for the United States, Hanna, Laura and Zeta