Hurricanes travel 17% more slowly than they did 75 years ago

Global winds that drive storms are slowing

By Christina Walker, CNN
NOAA via CNN

Wednesday morning view of Cat 4 Hurricane Michael with vis imagery from NOAA's GOES-16.

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Hurricane Dorian is crawling up the US coast after flattening neighborhoods in the Bahamas. And the storm's creeping pace could mean more destruction.

Since 1944, these major storms have slowed 17%, according to a recent study by NASA and NOAA scientists. This translates to significantly more rain and flooding for those in a hurricane's path.

"A stalling (storm) inflicts strong winds on the same region for a longer time, potentially driving greater storm surge and depositing more rain," the study says.

Scientists don't know exactly why hurricanes are moving more slowly. But they have their suspects. For one, global winds are slowing, which are what steer a hurricane.

Dorian was the strongest storm to ever hit the Bahamas. The hurricane battered the same islands for hours as it slowed to a walking pace of 1 mph.

Houston saw this when Hurricane Harvey lingered over the city in 2017. It dumped 51 inches in parts of Texas, setting a new US record for rainfall from a single storm. More than 30,000 people in Texas and Louisiana needed temporary shelter.

Scientists are still debating whether slowing hurricanes are linked to climate change. While it's not uncommon for a hurricane to stall, the June study found they are becoming "increasingly likely to 'stall' near the coast, spending many hours in confined regions."

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