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6 reasons the 2020 hurricane season was like no other

This satellite image made available by NOAA shows Hurricane Iota over Nicaragua and Honduras on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, at 12:20 ET. Hurricane Iota tore across Nicaragua on Tuesday, hours after roaring ashore as a Category 4 storm along almost exactly the same stretch of the Caribbean coast that was recently devastated by an equally powerful hurricane. (NOAA via AP)
This satellite image made available by NOAA shows Hurricane Iota over Nicaragua and Honduras on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, at 12:20 ET. Hurricane Iota tore across Nicaragua on Tuesday, hours after roaring ashore as a Category 4 storm along almost exactly the same stretch of the Caribbean coast that was recently devastated by an equally powerful hurricane. (NOAA via AP) (NOAA)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Like most things in the year 2020, hurricane season did not go normally. From worrying early on about how we could safely evacuate to hurricane shelters, to figuring out what to do when we exhausted the list of names for the year, this season has been busy and exhausting.

An Early Start

It’s not unheard of to see pre-season storms, but this year was unusually busy before June 1. We saw two named storms before the start of the season, Arthur (May 16-19) Bertha (May 27-28) and by July we had broken the record for the busiest start to a hurricane season with nine named storms from May through July (courtesy of Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzola, Hanna, and Isaias).

More Storms Than Names

For only the second time in history, we exhausted the list of names for the 2020 hurricane season and had to pivot to the Greek Alphabet. We finished off the traditional list on Sept. 18 when tropical Storm Wilfred formed. So far, the last storm name we used is Iota, but the area of disturbed weather out in the open Atlantic has been upgraded to a 30% chance to develop over the next few days.

2020 Hurricane names list
2020 Hurricane names list

Multiple Landfalling Storms Strike Same Region

For months, it felt like the Gulf Coast had a bullseye on it. We saw storm after storm, some of them major hurricanes, moving onshore in this region. Cristobal hit Louisiana on June 7 to kick things off, but Laura grew to a Category 4 hurricane and made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 27. Marco was much weaker, but added insult to injury on Aug. 24 when it moved onshore near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Then on Sept. 16 Hurricane Sally made landfall as a Category 2 storm near Gulf Shores, Alabama. Next came hurricane Delta on Oct. 9, making landfall near Creole, Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane. Another Category 2 hurricane, Zeta, moved onshore Oct. 28 in a similar area of Louisiana.

6 hurricanes in 2020 hit within a few hundred miles of each other
6 hurricanes in 2020 hit within a few hundred miles of each other

Lack of Landfalls in Florida

Despite the unusually high number of storms, it was one of the quietest hurricane seasons for the state of Florida in years. We only saw one direct landfall all season long and Eta was a weak Tropical Storm by the time it made landfall in the Keys on Nov. 8. We were in the forecast cone for Hurricane Isaias for a few days, but the path then turned towards North Carolina in early August. All in all, Florida did not participate in the 2020 hurricane season.

More Short-Lived Storms

This hurricane season, more so than any other, we saw short-lived named storms that remained out over the open ocean and never made a landfall. Arthur, the first storm of the season was one of these, forming on May 16 around 190 miles east-northeast of Cape Canaveral and later weakened over the open ocean on May 19.

Dolly was the next such storm, forming June 23 and fading a day later. Edouard was another one-day storm on July 5. Gonzalo lasted three days, from July 22-25 over the Atlantic. Josephine formed August 13 and faded Aug. 16, followed by Kyle which formed Aug. 14 and faded Aug. 16. Nana and Omar formed and faded the first week of October.

Rene lasted a little longer, from September 7-12, but never made landfall. Vicky and Wilfred formed on Sept. 14 and 17 and then faded Sept,. 18 and 20, respectively. Theta was the final storm of the season to form on Nov. 10 and faded on Nov. 15 without making landfall.

All in all, 12 named storms this season never made a landfall and most were quite short-lived. We ran past the traditional list of hurricane names by nine storms, so it will be interesting to see if the criteria for naming a storm changes — perhaps to not use a name for a storm that might not affect anyone.

Storms that never made landfall
Storms that never made landfall

Intense Late-Season Storms

Epsilon and Eta were major hurricanes (Category 3 and higher) that formed late in the hurricane season. Late October is not historically a time we see such strong storms form, but this season we did. Even more odd was Hurricane Iota, which grew into a Category 4 hurricane in mid-November. Typically, sea surface temperatures have started to cool down by the late season months and that can limit the potential energy a storm can generate.


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