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Record-Setting 2020 Hurricane Season In Review

Although tropical storms and hurricanes can develop outside the June 1 to November 30 period, yesterday was the “official” end of the 2020 hurricane season. The 2020 season tied or set an astounding number of records. The following compilation comes from Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner.

Tracks of 2020 Storms

2020 By the Numbers

  • The 2020 season was the most active season ever recorded with a total of:
    • 30 tropical storms (pervious record was 28 in 2005)
    • 13 hurricanes (2005 continues to hold the record with 15)
    • 6 major hurricanes
    • This is only the second time the Greek alphabet has been used (previous was 2005).

Landfalls

  • The US coastline – especially the US Gulf coast – experienced a record 12 landfalls, surpassing the previous record of 9 from 1916. Landfalling storms included (Bertha, Cristobal, Hanna, Fay, Isaias, Laura, Marco, Sally, Beta, Delta, Zeta, Eta (2 FL landfalls).
  • The Gulf coast experienced 9 of the 12 landfalls including 5 hurricanes (Hanna, Laura, Sally, Delta, Zeta).
  • Texas and Louisiana suffered 7 of the 9 landfalls with only Sally and Eta making landfall east of the Mississippi River.
  • Louisiana experienced the landfall of 5 tropical systems: 2 tropical storms (Cristobal and Marco) and 3 hurricanes (Laura, Delta, Zeta). Laura and Delta made landfall only 12 miles apart roughly 6 weeks apart in southwest Louisiana just east of Cameron.
  • Portions of the state of Louisiana spent a total of 3 weeks within the NHC error cone this hurricane season. The state of LA was under coastal watches or warnings due to a tropical cyclone for a total of 474 hours or 19.75 days. 
  • Laura was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the state of Louisiana since 1856.
  • For the most part, storms impacting the US coast in 2020 missed large metro areas when compared to 2017 and 2005. Given the large number of storms that made landfall in the US, the estimated damages were low compared to other years. Damages for the 2020 hurricane season were $37 billion in the US, compared to $307 billion (2017…Harvey and Irma) and $238 billion (2005…Katrina, Rita, Wilma).

Strength, Rapid Intensification, Concentration

  • On September 14, 2020, 5 tropical cyclones were ongoing at the same time in the Atlantic basin (Sally, Paulette, Rene, Teddy, and Vicky). This ties September 1971 for the most number of tropical cyclones at the same time in the basin. 
  • On September 18, 2020, 3 tropical cyclones formed within in 6-hr window (Wilfred, Alpha, and Beta). This is only the second time in recorded history that 3 tropical cyclones have formed in such a short time period…the other time was in 1893. 
  • 10 tropical storms formed in the month of September – the most for any month on record
  • A total of 10 systems experienced rapid intensification (35mph increase in wind speed in 24hrs) in 2020 (Hanna, Laura, Sally, Teddy, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, and Iota).
  • Hurricanes Delta, Iota, and Eta experienced winds speed increases over 100mph in 36 hours or less. 
  • Of the 6 major hurricanes in 2020, 4 were in October and November and had Greek alphabet names (Delta, Epsilon, Eta, and Iota).
  • Hurricanes Eta and Iota both made landfall only 15 miles apart along the Nicaragua coast both as category 4 hurricanes.
  • Hurricane Iota (160mph) became the latest category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin and the second strongest November hurricane on record only behind the 1932 Cuba hurricane (175mph)
  • NOAA hurricane hunters flew a total of 86 missions for 678 flight hours and 102 eyewall passages. A total of 1772 dropsondes were deployed.

Threading the Needles

This is not a record, but…every storm that made landfall missed the Lake Houston Area. Beta came nearest and dumped up to 14 inches of rain crosstown.

Posted by Bob Rehak based on data from Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner

1190 Days since Hurricane Harvey