Atlantic Hurricane Season Pummeling Records...Still
Updated 9-21-20 11:00AM ET
It was evident by Spring 2020 that the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1st to November 30th, was going to be very active. This was expected by several institutions in the United States and abroad for many reasons, including a developing La Nina (El Nino Southern Oscillation "ENSO" cool phase), above normal sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Main Development Region "MDR", and an associated decrease in trade winds and vertical shear. These conditions allow for the development, maintenance, and strengthening for tropical systems. On average, the Atlantic Hurricane Season features 12.1 tropical storms, 6.4 hurricanes, and 2.7 major hurricanes. For 2020, NOAA's early prediction on May 21st called for 13-19 tropical storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes- well above normal. Their updated outlook on August 6 increased those numbers even more, calling for 19-25 tropical storms, 7-11 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes.
Let's review the basics before we take a look at the current season. When an area of low pressure originating in the tropics becomes organized around a center of circulation, it becomes a Tropical Depression. Tropical Depressions have maximum sustained wind speeds of 38mph. Once a storm has 39mph sustained winds or greater, it becomes a Tropical Storm and is named using the 6-year rotating lists that are strictly maintained by the World Meteorological Organization. Tropical Storms have sustained winds of up to 73mph. Once stronger than 73mph, the storm becomes a hurricane, and is then rated on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This scale uses ratings of 1-5 as described in the image below. All storms category 3 and above are considered "major" hurricanes. With that out of the way, let's take a look at the ever-evolving 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
MAJOR HURRICANES: 2 HURRICANES: 8 TROPICAL STORMS: 23
TROPICAL STORM ARTHUR (May 16-19)
The first named storm of the season was Tropical Storm Arthur, which developed at 11pm ET on May 16th near the Bahamas. The storm moved north-northeastward, making a close pass to the Carolinas but did not make landfall before going out to sea. Arthur had maximum sustained winds of 60mph. The formation of Arthur marked the 6th consecutive Atlantic Hurricane Season with a named storm before the official June 1st start date.
TROPICAL STORM BERTHA (May 27-28)
Tropical Storm Bertha developed near 8am ET on May 27th off the Georgia/South Carolina coast, and made landfall in South Carolina only one hour later with maximum sustained winds of 50mph. Within a few hours, the storm had already weakened to a Tropical Depression. Impacts from this system came in the form of very heavy rainfall from Florida to South Carolina over several days, as well as a tornado, and severe rip currents that killed one person.
TROPICAL STORM CRISTOBAL (June 1-10)
Tropical Storm Cristobal developed at 11:15am ET on June 2nd from remnants of an Eastern Pacific tropical storm named Amanda, which reorganized over the Yucatan Peninsula. This became the earliest 3rd storm of the season, beating the previous record by three days. Cristobal had maximum sustained winds of 60mph and made landfall in southeastern Louisiana on June 7th. The storm then traveled northward through the Mississippi Valley as a tropical depression and into Wisconsin before finally becoming extra-tropical on June 10th. Impacts to the United States came in the form of torrential rainfall, strong rip currents, flooding, and multiple tornadoes along the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, fifteen deaths occurred as a result of the storm.
TROPICAL STORM DOLLY (June 22-24)
Although it was unlikely to develop, a subtropical depression moved into the Gulf Stream on June 23 and quickly organized into Tropical Storm Dolly at 12:15pm ET. Dolly maxed out at 45mph winds and was quickly pulled out to sea where it became post-tropical over cool waters. Dolly was the third earliest fourth storm of the season on record and had no impacts on the United States.
TROPICAL STORM EDOUARD (July 4-7)
Tropical Storm Edouard developed near Bermuda on July 5th near 11pm ET, after pushing off the eastern U.S coast as just a remnant mesolow. The storm peaked with maximum sustained winds of 45mph, but became extra-tropical only three hours later. Edouard became the earliest fifth storm on record, beating the previous record by six days. There were no impacts to the United States from this system.
TROPICAL STORM FAY (July 9-11)
Fay also began as a disturbance that emerged off the coast of Georgia, which reached tropical storm strength on July 9th thanks to the warm Gulf Stream water. It became the earliest sixth named storm of the season, breaking the previous record by 12 days. Fay traveled north with maximum sustained winds of 60mph and made landfall in New Jersey on July 10th, the first to do so since Irene in 2011. Impacts were greatest in the northeastern United States, where widespread power outages, heavy rainfall, and damaging winds were observed. Six deaths are directly attributed to the storm.
TROPICAL STORM GONZALO (July 21-25)
Tropical Storm Gonzalo formed at 8:50am ET on July 22nd, and reached a peak intensity of 65mph on the 23rd. The storm quickly absorbed Saharan Dust and was unable to strengthen further, but remained at tropical storm strength through landfall in Trinidad. There were only two reports of damage on Trinidad: a fallen tree and damage to a bus stop. Gonzalo became the earliest seventh storm on record, beating the previous record by two days.
HURRICANE HANNA (July 23-27)
A tropical wave moved into the very warm Gulf of Mexico waters on July 19th and began to organize into a low pressure system. The system developed a defined center of circulation and was designated a tropical depression late on July 22nd. Late on the 23rd, it had strengthened into Tropical Storm Hanna and became the earliest eighth named storm, breaking the previous record by ten days. Tropical Storm Hannah underwent rapid intensification as it steadily pushed westward across the Gulf of Mexico, and strengthened into the first hurricane of the Atlantic season at 8am ET on July 25th. The storm reached peak intensity of 90mph (Category 1 strength) before making landfall one hour later on Padre Island, Texas. It then made a second landfall in Kennedy County, Texas at the same strength before quickly weakening once inland. The storm brought storm surge, serious structural damage, flooding rainfall, and a few tornadoes. At least five deaths were reported.
HURRICANE ISAIAS (July 30-August 5)
Late on July 29th, Tropical Storm Isaias formed south of Dominica, after lacking a defined center for six days. It became the earliest ninth storm on record by eight days. The storm strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane late on the 31st as it pushed northward from the Greater Antilles. Isaias reached a peak intensity of 85mph, with further strengthening inhibited by strong wind shear and dry air. Late on August 3rd, Isaias made landfall on Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina at its peak strength. It gradually weakened as it moved inland and pushed northward through the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Isaias caused over 2.7 million power outages from Florida to New England. It was the costliest tropical cyclone to affect the northeastern U.S. since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Twelve states saw confirmed tornadoes from the outer rain bands as well. There were thirteen direct fatalities from the hurricane, and five indirect fatalities.
TROPICAL DEPRESSION TEN (July 31-August 2)
A broad area of low pressure situated near the Cabo Verde Islands briefly organized into a tropical depression on July 31st with maximum sustained winds of 35mph. Some data suggested that the system may have very briefly achieved tropical storm strength, but it was never officially designated as such. The system dissipated without further intensification late on August 1st.
TROPICAL STORM JOSEPHINE (August 11-16)
Tropical Storm Josephine developed near 11am ET on August 13th, after a brief lull in Atlantic tropical activity due to unfavorable conditions. Josephine became the earliest tenth named storm on record by nine days and had a peak intensity of 45mph. Josephine fought very unfavorable conditions- especially wind shear- throughout its lifespan, and weakened to a tropical depression and soon dissipated on August 16th just north of the Virgin Islands. There were no United States impacts from the storm.
TROPICAL STORM KYLE (August 14-16)
Another very brief storm, Kyle developed on August 14th just off the North Carolina coast and became the earliest eleventh storm on record, beating the previous record- Katrina- by ten days. Kyle reached peak intensity of 50mph near midday before becoming asymmetric and post-tropical early on August 16th. The storm was eventually absorbed by a European windstorm named Ellen which brought severe winds to the British Isles. There were no United States impacts from the storm.
HURRICANE LAURA (August 20-29)
Laura's initial development was much anticipated by meteorologists, as weather model data had been showing the storm several days ahead of time. As the system pushed westward across the tropical Atlantic, it quickly became organized with a closed center of circulation, and became a tropical depression on August 20th. It strengthened to Tropical Storm Laura on August 21st, becoming the earliest twelfth named storm on record by eight days. Laura maintained tropical storm strength as it impacted the Greater Antilles, and began to strengthen after pushing west off of Puerto Rico. After surviving landfall in the Dominican Republic, Laura took a southerly track mostly missing Cuba, and allowing the system to continue to strengthen as it headed into the extremely warm Gulf of Mexico. Early on August 25th, Laura became the third hurricane of the season. Laura then went through rapid intensification and became the first major hurricane of the season on August 26th and strengthened into a Category 4 major hurricane with 150mph sustained winds just before making landfall near Cameron, Louisiana near 2am on the 27th. This was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana since 1851. Laura caused extensive damage in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, flattening structures along the coastline from damaging winds and the storm surge and causing widespread power outages that have lasted for three weeks. Laura killed 35 people in Hispaniola (four in the Dominican Republic and thirty-one in Haiti) as well as thirty-six in the United States.
HURRICANE MARCO (August 20-25)
Marco had organized into a tropical storm late on August 22nd, after struggling to strengthen from tropical depression strength for two days prior. It became the earliest thirteenth storm of the season, beating the previous record by eleven days. Marco went through rapid intensification and became the fourth hurricane of the season at 12:30pm ET on August 23rd with a peak intensity of 75mph. Initially, it seemed like Marco and Laura may make back-to-back landfalls as hurricanes in Louisiana just 24 hours apart. However, Marco faced unfavorable shear and displaced convection and weakened significantly before landfall as a weak tropical storm near the mouth of the Mississippi River on August 24th. Impacts to the United States only came in the form of flooding rains in the Florida panhandle and into the the Carolinas. There was also one indirect fatality.
HURRICANE NANA (September 1-4)
Nana became a tropical storm in the Caribbean Sea on September 1st, making it the earliest fourteenth storm on record by four days. It strengthened into a hurricane at 11pm on September 2nd with a peak sustained wind speed of 75mph. Merely three hours later, Nana made landfall in Belize and rapidly weakened once inland. Remnants of Nana crossed Mexico and eventually became Tropical Storm Julio in the eastern Pacific on September 5th.
TROPICAL STORM OMAR (August 31-September 5)
A disturbance off the coast of Florida gradually organized in the Gulf Stream into Tropical Storm Omar on September 1st, becoming the earliest fifteenth named storm record by six days. The storm remained weak with a peak intensity of 40mph for 24 hours before being downgraded back to a tropical depression. Omar brought life-threatening rip currents and swells off the coast of the Carolinas. Impacts in Belize were observed in the form of heavy rainfall and hundreds of acres of banana crops destroyed.
HURRICANE PAULETTE (September 7-16 and 22-23)
Paulette was long-monitored (August 30-September 6!) as a tropical disturbance that was very unorganized before finally developing into a tropical storm on September 7th in the middle of the tropical Atlantic. This made Paulette the earliest sixteenth named storm on record by ten days. The storm tracked northwestward for several days, strengthening into the 6th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season late on September 12th, and made landfall with 90mph sustained winds in Bermuda on September 14th. Paulette was only the 7th hurricane to ever make landfall in Bermuda. After pushing northwest of the island, Paulette strengthened even further to a peak intensity of 105mph, a Category 2 storm. Paulette maintained Category 2 strength for 21 hours before weakening due to wind shear and dry air. The storm became extra-tropical on September 16th. Paulette caused island-wide power outages in Bermuda thanks to falling trees and snapped power lines from the winds. Additionally, a man drowned on the beach in New Jersey after being caught in the rough surf from the storm.
Paulette's extratropical remains meandered southward for five more days and redeveloped tropical characteristics. On September 22nd, the NHC designated it as a tropical storm again with 60mph sustained winds. The storm traveled eastward over the next 24 hours before becoming post-tropical for a second time on September 23rd. No additional impacts to land occurred from the storm's redevelopment.
TROPICAL STORM RENE (September 7-14)
After a tropical wave pushed off the coast of Africa on September 6th, it quickly organized into Tropical Storm Rene on September 7th just east of Cabo Verde. It became the earliest 17th named storm of the season by eleven days. Rene weakened back into a tropical depression after moving through the Cabo Verde Islands, but regained tropical storm strength on September 9th, peaking at 50mph on September 10th. It maintained tropical storm strength through early on September 11th before weakening to a tropical depression for the final time, and became a remnant low on September 14th. The only impacts from this storm were gusty winds and heavy rains across the Cabo Verde Islands.
HURRICANE SALLY (September 11-17)
A tropical disturbance near the Bahamas organized into a tropical depression on September 11th, and made landfall near Miami, Florida early on September 12th with 35mph winds. The system continued northwestward across Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico on September 12th and strengthened into Tropical Storm Sally, becoming the earliest 18th named storm on record by 20 days. Sally went through rapid intensification on September 14th and went from a 65mph tropical storm to a 90mph hurricane in just 1.5 hours! Sally strengthened further into a Category 2 hurricane later that day, and made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama at peak intensity of 105mph. The storm rapidly weakened once it moved inland, but flooding rains were widespread across the southeastern United States. Locations from Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola, Florida saw the greatest impacts including widespread wind damage, storm surge, 20-30" of rainfall, and several tornadoes. Unfortunately, seven deaths occurred from the storm.
HURRICANE TEDDY (September 12-23)
Teddy was designated as a tropical storm early on September 14th in the eastern Atlantic, becoming the earliest 19th storm on record by 20 days. Teddy continued to quickly organize and it traveled westward and strengthened into a hurricane on September 16th. The storm went through rapid intensification on September 17th and became the second major hurricane of the Atlantic season. It reached a peak intensity of 140mph, a Category 4 hurricane, while traveling northeast of the Greater Antilles. The massive storm continued northwestward and impacted Bermuda as a strong Category 1 hurricane on September 21st. After moving north of the island, it began to merge with a trough and doubled in size, before making landfall in Nova Scotia just below hurricane strength on September 23rd. Two deaths occurred at a Puerto Rican beach due to rip currents. 18,000 customers in Nova Scotia lost power from the storm, but impacts were very limited otherwise.
TROPICAL STORM VICKY (September 14-17)
A tropical wave pushed off of Africa on September 11th and subsequently organized into a tropical depression and then Tropical Storm Vicky on September 14th. Vicky became the earliest 20th named storm on record by 21 days, and reached a peak intensity of 50mph. It maintained tropical storm strength through early on September 17th before weakening to a tropical depression, and then a remnant low six hours later. The storm brought flooding rains to the Cabo Verde islands, causing one death.
TROPICAL STORM WILFRED (September 18-21)
A tropical wave pushed off the African coast into the eastern Atlantic during the second full week of September, but did not have a defined low-level center of circulation. Wilfred finally organized and was designated as a tropical storm with a maximum wind speed of only 40mph on September 18th, the earliest 21st named storm on record by 20 days. Wilfred is only the second "W" storm in history, the other being Wilma in 2005. Wilfred remained a tropical storm for 48 hours before Teddy caused it to weaken into a tropical depression.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) does not use letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z to name tropical systems, due to the lack of names available. Therefore, Wilfred is the last storm that will be named using the Latin Alphabet. From here, we transition to the Greek Alphabet which has an additional 24 names to be used for storm names. In 2005, names Alpha through Zeta were used. Greek letters/names are not retired, per the current WMO/NOAA consensus.
SUBTROPICAL STORM ALPHA (September 18-19)
The first Greek-named storm of the season was very unique! A non-tropical low pressure system had been traveling eastward across the far northern Atlantic within a larger extratropical system. The NHC had given the system low chances for development but it rapidly organized on September 18th and was named Subtropical Storm Alpha. A subtropical storm has characteristics of a tropical storm, as well as an extratropical (non-tropical) storm. This was the earliest named 22nd storm on record by 29 days. The only other occurrence was in 2005. Alpha also became the easternmost-forming storm in the Altantic, and was only the third tropical or subtropical system to make landfall in mainland Europe. Previous occurrences were in 1842 and 2005. Alpha made landfall in Portugal two hours after being named, and rapidly weakened once inland. High winds occurred in Portugal, along with two tornadoes and significant street flooding. In Spain, a train was derailed by the storm and lightning caused a forest fire in Ons Island. There was one associated death in Spain.
TROPICAL STORM BETA (September 17-22)
After days of remaining unorganized in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, a disturbance was able to organize into Tropical Storm Beta on September 18th. This became the earliest 23rd named storm on record by 34 days. Beta remained fairly weak throughout its lifespan in the western Gulf of Mexico, reaching a peak intensity of 60mph. Due to upwelling of cool waters, dry air, and wind shear, it weakened to 45mph before making landfall on the Matagorda Peninsula at midnight on September 22nd. Beta continued to weaken over land and became post-tropical later that day. Beta became the 9th U.S. landfalling storm of the season, tying the record for most ever. Extensive flooding near Houston was observed, and one fisherman was killed in Brays Bayou.
Base maps for archived storm tracks provided by WikiProject Tropical Cyclone Tracks
Current forecast storm tracks provided by National Hurricane Center