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How Does the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Compare to Past Seasons?

1 Dec 2017, 11:12 am

 

This season, we had more major hurricanes than any year since 2005. We saw the largest number of consecutive hurricanes, since we began observing storms with satellites, from Hurricanes Franklin through Ophelia. And this was the most expensive hurricane season on record for the U.S., with a current estimated total of more than 200 billion dollars in damage, here alone, and topping $300 billion in the entire Atlantic basin. Just three of the major hurricanes of this season, Harvey, Irma, and Maria were responsible for most of this incredible destruction.

We’ve only seen more than one Category 5 hurricane in a single season five times before this year and with Irma’s strike on Barbuda and Maria’s landfall on Dominica this is only the second year in history, with two CAT 5 hurricanes making landfall; the last time was in 2007. But we’re not done with the bad records yet; Irma was the strongest hurricane on record, to form in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.  And now most recently, another astounding record – with Hurricane Ophelia, we’ve witnessed the easternmost major hurricane to ever exist in the Atlantic basin and the strongest storm to pound Ireland in 50 years.

And we’re not even done with heartbreaking records… Hurricane Harvey first hammered Texas, with a devastating Category 4 wind. After the wind and surge, came the rain, the most rain to EVER fall from a single tropical system in the U.S. with 64.58 inches! The rainfall forecast was so dire that the National Weather Service tweeted these prophetic and frightening words, “This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.” Texas officials blame at least 88 deaths on Harvey in their state alone.

Then after a two week break, Hurricane Irma was born, reaching Category 5 intensity, with the strongest winds of any storm in the world so far this year, 185 mph. Irma roared through the Caribbean and laid waste to islands like Barbuda, where the destruction was so complete, the island was left uninhabitable for the first time in 300 years. Irma continued it’s killer trek West, killing at least 134 people and while it missed a direct hit on Puerto Rico, it caused massive damage there, while threatening to make landfall in the Florida Keys as a Cat. 5, before threatening to cut a disastrous path straight up the middle of the peninsula, as South Floridians evacuated by the thousands…

While many of the Key’s were left very heavily damaged, Irma’s track and intensity changes spared the entire state what would have been unthinkable property and infrastructure losses from storm surge and wind.

Next up, Maria, the never to be forgotten, 2nd Category 5 Hurricane of this year… After the outer eyewall crossed St. Croix at Cat 5 intensity, the biggest impact was to Puerto Rico, still reeling from Irma. The U.S. territory took a direct hit, as a slightly weakened Category 4 Maria cut a terrible diagonal path across the entire island.

Even now, much of Puerto Rico still has no power and total restoration is many months away. Water and food distribution is still lacking in many parts of the island and the infrastructure damage and human suffering has been almost unimaginable for a modern society.

Now with the season officially over, we hope for no out of season storms as the rebuilding and recovery in the many hard-hit areas in the Atlantic basin continue…

For WeatherNationJohn Van Pelt

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