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National Hurricane Center goes Greek with 3 new storms on Friday

Within hours Wilfred, Alpha and Beta formed

Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Eta...
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Eta...

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We used our final traditional name for Atlantic storm Friday when Tropical Storm Wilfred formed and took the last name on the 2020 list. The National Hurricane Center wasted no time moving onto the Greek alphabet -- only the second time since the 1950s. And there are more than two months left in this record-shattering hurricane season.

Two hours after Wilfred took shape, Subtropical Storm Alpha formed just off the coast of Portugal. This system will move onshore over Portugal and dissipate.

The only time the hurricane center dipped into the Greek alphabet was the deadly 2005 hurricane season, which included Hurricane Katrina’s strike on New Orleans. The prior record for the earliest 21st named storm was Wilma on Oct. 8, 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

Alpha and Beta, next will be a while and will be Delta

Tropical Depression 22 then took the next name in the Greek Alphabet, when it intensified into Tropical Storm Beta Friday evening. Tropical Storm Beta will meander along the Texas coastline over the next 5 days. A slow westward motion is forecast to begin late Saturday or Saturday night, and this motion will likely continue into early next week. On the forecast track, the center of Beta will approach western coast of the Gulf of Mexico Sunday night and Monday.

Additional slow strengthening is expected through the weekend, and Beta could be near hurricane strength Sunday or Sunday night.

Rainmaker for the Texas coastline

There are 24 characters in the Greek alphabet. If we were to get a particularly damaging or deadly hurricane, that would normally meet the standards for retiring the name. The World Meteorological Organization will discuss how to handle that at their annual meeting in Spring 2021.

What’s Next?

I normally cringe when I see long term forecasts posted- they are notoriously low in accuracy past a certain point and are more valuable to look for overall weather patterns that when and where a storm will be. I’m breaking format because the long term forecast for the Atlantic right now shows a very quiet lull through September 30.

GFS showing a more quiet end to September in the tropics

Leftover from Sally

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people were still without power along the Alabama coast and the Florida panhandle in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally. Officials continued to assess millions of dollars in damage that included a broken bridge in Pensacola and ships thrown onto dry land.

In Loxley, Alabama, Catherine Williams lost power and some of her roof to Sally. The storm also destroyed three pecan trees in her yard that she used to try to make ends meet.

“There’s no food, no money. I took my last heart pill today,” said Williams, who has been laid off twice from her job as a cook because of the economic problems caused by COVID-19. She hoped that the Red Cross would soon show up at her home.

Two people in Alabama were reported killed — a drowning and a death during the cleanup in Baldwin County. In Florida, authorities were looking for a missing kayaker who was feared dead in Escambia County.

The supercharged Atlantic hurricane season has produced so many named storms that scientists ran out of traditional names as Tropical Storm Wilfred developed in the eastern Atlantic. It was only the second time that has happened since forecasters standardized the naming system in 1953. Wilfred was weak and far from land.

About the Authors:

Our chief meteorologist lives and breathes the weather on the First Coast.