2016 Florida Weather Highlights
After several quiet years, weather forecasters think we might be entering a more active hurricane season after a few quiet years.
For three out of the last six years, there have been 19 named storms each year though both 2013 and 2014 were quieter than predicted.
However, Florida has now gone a record ten years without a hurricane making landfall so it is only a matter of time.
Though the official hurricane season runs from June to November, it is not uncommon for storms to form before the start of the season, in May, or well beyond the end of the season right through to the following January. In 2012 both Alberto and Beryl formed in May and in 2015 Ana also formed in May.
In 2016 Alex formed in January and Bonnie in May.
August and September are traditionally the most active months.
Hurricane predictions for 2016
The team led by Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University made their first predictions for the 2016 hurricane season in April. They forecast an average season with up to twelve named storms, five of them hurricanes of which two could become a major hurricane (Category 3 or greater with sustained winds of 111 mph or more). Sadly Dr. Gray passed away on April 16, 2016.
They predicted that there is a 50% chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the entire United States coastline during 2016 (average is 52%) with a 30% chance (average is 31%) for the eastern Florida peninsula and a 29% chance (average is 30%) for the Gulf Coast.
Colorado issued a revised forecast at the beginning of June but did not change their overall forecast numbers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usually put out their first predictions at the end of May each year with a revised forecast in August. This year in May they also predicted an average season with a 70% chance of an estimated 10 to 16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes of which up to four could be major hurricanes. This again puts their worst case scenario ahead of Colorado State University.
It is expect that El Niña could develop, increasing the chance of more Atlantic hurricanes this year.
AccuWeather.com normally produce their forecast around the middle of May and this year is predicting fourteen named storms with eight hurricanes of which four could be major with three landfalls in the continental USA.
Tropical Storm Risk is predicting similar numbers with seventeen named storms and nine hurricanes of which four could become major.
Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University team have over estimated named storms and hurricanes in recent years but remember these are just predictions.
It only takes one storm to do untold damage, just remember Katrina and Sandy.
In 1992 there were only seven named storms making it a “quiet” year but the first storm of the season, category 5 Hurricane Andrew, hit Homestead near Miami before crossing over into the Gulf and onto Louisiana. Damage was estimated at $26 billion with around 65 people killed in total.
Storm names for 2016
Each year a set of names alternating between boys and girls is chosen for all named storms. Names are often re-used but the names of particularly damaging hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy are withdrawn and never used again.
The names for tropical storms and hurricanes in 2016 are as follows:
Alex developed near the Bahamas on Thursday, January 7 and initially tracked northeast towards Bermuda. It became a Tropical Storm on January 13 and the next day a category 1 Hurricane, the first hurricane to form in January since 1955.
Wind speeds reached 85 mph as it hit the Azores before dissipating on January 17.
Bonnie developed as a Tropical Depression on May 27 off the coast of South Carolina. The next day it strengthened to a Tropical Storm with wind speeds of around 40 mph.
Though it tracked eastwards away from the coast, at least two people were drowned by strong rip currents, one in North Carolina, the other in Florida.
Colin formed as a Tropical Depression on Sunday, June 5 in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tropical Storm Colin made landfall near Big Bend early on the morning of Tuesday, June 7 and tracked northeast with wind speeds of 50 mph towards the Georgia Atlantic coast.
Large parts of Northern and Central Florida experienced heavy rain and the chance of tornadoes. Four people in Florida drowned due to rip currents.
Danielle formed in the southwest Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, June 19 and tracked westward with wind speeds of 35 mph.
Tropical Storm Danielle made landfall on Monday, June 20, north of Tuxpan in Mexico with maximum wind speeds of 40 mph, bringing heavy rain to the area. It rapidly weakened as it travelled inland.
Tropical Storm Earl formed on August 2 in the Caribbean Sea south of Cuba and quickly strengthened as it tracked westwards towards the southern Yucatan peninsula and Belize with wind speeds of 70 mph.
On Wednesday, August 4, Hurricane Earl hit the coast near Belize City with wind speeds of around 100 mph and torrential rainfall but quickly weakened back to a tropical storm.
It tracked across Belize and Guatemala before crossing into Mexico. It briefly passed back into the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall again where it further weakened to a tropical depression.
Over 50 people died due to landslides in Mexico as a result of Hurricane Earl.
Fiona formed on Wednesday, August 17 in the central Atlantic, about 900 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. It started to track west-northwest with wind speeds of around 40 mph.
A week later Tropical Storm Fiona strengthened briefly before weakening into a Tropical Depression and tracked west-northwest with wind speeds of around 30 mph. It had been expected to veer northwards towards Bermuda but it quickly weakened into a tropical depression the following day.
Gaston formed on Monday, August 22 around 450 miles off the coast of the Cabo Verde Islands with wind speeds of around 40 mph.
On Thursday, August 25, Gaston briefly reach category 1 hurricane status before weakening slightly back to a tropical storm again. It was tracking west-northwest and was expected to strengthen back to a category 1 or 2 hurricane status. It was also forecast to veer onto a more northerly track.
Hurricane Gaston strengthened to a category 3 hurricane on Tuesday, August 31 becoming the first major hurricane of the 2016 season as it veered east-northeast away from the US Atlantic seaboard. It gradually weakened over the next few days.
Tropical Depression Nine became Tropical Storm Hermine on Wednesday, August 31, in the Gulf of Mexico and was predicted to hit the Florida Gulf coast as a hurricane somewhere between Central Florida and the Panhandle.
It started tracking north-northeast with wind speeds of 60 mph and Governor Scott declared a State of Emergency for 51 of Florida’s 67 counties and ordered the mandatory evacuation of five counties.
On Friday, September 2, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Big Bend area as a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 80 mph. It quickly lost strength after crossing the Panhandle coastline as it continued to track across Georgia towards the Carolinas as a Tropical Storm.
Large numbers of people in its path were evacuated and there was widespread storm surges, flooding and power cuts as well as isolated tornadoes.
Hermine is the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida for 11 years, the last being Wilma in 2005.
Tropical Storm Ian formed in the central Atlantic on Monday, September 12. It started tracking northwest with a wind speed of 40 mph. It veered onto a northeasterly track and was no threat to land.
Hot on the heels of Ian, Tropical Storm Julia formed over northeast Florida near Jacksonville on Wednesday, September 14, and started tracking northwards into Georgia and South Carolina. It is the first ever storm to be named whilst over land. Parts of North Carolina received 12 inches of rain.
On Saturday, September 17, Tropical Storm Julia weakened to a tropical depression as it tracked northwards off the Atlantic seaboard.
Tropical Storm Karl formed off the African coast on Friday, September 16 and started tracking westwards with wind speeds of 45 mph. It was expected to strengthen to hurricane status as it tracked towards the Caribbean but in the end it weakened.
Tropical Storm Lisa formed off the African coast of Senegal on Tuesday, September 20 and initially tracked west northwest with wind speeds of 50 mph.
After reaching wind speeds of 65 mph, Tropical Storm Lisa started to weaken on Thursday, September 22.
Matthew formed in the Caribbean Sea on Wednesday, September 28, tracking westwards with wind speeds of 60 mph.
On Friday, September 30, Hurricane Matthew strengthened to a category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of 115 mph, becoming the second major hurricane of the 2016 season. It started to turn northwards and was forecast to hit the eastern edge of Jamaica on Monday, October 3 before continuing towards eastern Cuba. In the space of 24 hours it went from a category 1 hurricane to a category 5.
Hurricane Matthew weakened from a category 5 back to a category 4 hurricane on Sunday, October 2, as it tracked northwest with wind speeds of 145 mph. It was forecast to pass between Jamaica and Haiti before hitting the eastern tip of Cuba.
It made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday, October 4 and as many as 550 people died in the Caribbean.
As Hurricane Matthew hit the eastern tip of Cuba, South Carolina started evacuating over 1 million people, 100 miles inland. This was followed by evacuations from South Florida up through Georgia and in total over 2 million people were evacuated. There was a Hurricane warning in effect along the whole eastern Florida coastline.
Hurricane Matthew was expected to impact South Florida on the evening of Thursday, October 6 as it strengthened from category 3 back to a category 4 hurricane but in the end it skirted the Atlantic coastline right up to the Carolinas. Over 1 million homes were left without power and some areas of the Carolinas received over 17 inches of rainfall.
On Saturday, October 8, it made landfall at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, near McClellanville, South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph.
The following day, Hurricane Matthew weakened off the Outer Banks as it tracked northeast into the Atlantic.
A total of 46 deaths have been attributed to Matthew in the United States, 26 of those in North Carolina due to the flooding and around 8 in Florida.
Storm damage is estimated at over $10 billion, the most expensive since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Tropical Storm Nicole formed in the Atlantic on Tuesday, October 4, several hundred miles east of the Bahamas.
Hurricane Nicole became the sixth hurricane of the season Thursday, October 6, as wind speeds increased to 80 mph. It weakened the following day but then further strengthened peaking as a category 4 hurricane becoming the third major hurricane of the season.
On Thursday, October 13, it hit Bermuda but quickly weakened again.
Otto formed as a tropical depression in the southwest Caribbean, around 300 miles off the coast of Nicaragua on November 21, late in the season. It quickly strengthened into a category 1 hurricane.
It then weakened and is currently moving west northwest with wind speeds of 70 mph.
It is expected to strengthen back to a category 1 or even 2 hurricane before hitting the Central American coastline around the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.