After several quiet years, weather forecasters think we might be entering a more active hurricane season.
Prior to 2016, Florida had gone a record ten years without a hurricane making landfall that is until Hurricane Hermine hit Apalachee Bay in the Panhandle.
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 April/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. In 2017, Arlene formed in April and in this year, another storm called Alberto formed in late May.
August and September are traditionally the most active months.
The team led by Philip J. Klotzbach from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University made their first predictions for the 2018 hurricane season in April. They forecast a slightly above average season with up to 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes of which three could become a major hurricane (Category 3 or greater with sustained winds of 111 mph or more).
This is again due to the reduced likelihood of a significant Pacific weather system known as El Niño, coupled with cooler Atlantic water temperatures.
Colorado issued a revised forecast at the beginning of July and lowered their forecast numbers to 14 named storms, four hurricanes and only one major hurricanes.
They predicted that there is a 63% chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the entire United States coastline during 2018 (average is 52%) with a 39% chance (average is 31%) for the eastern Florida peninsula and a 38% chance (average is 30%) for the Gulf Coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usually put out their first predictions towards the end of May each year with a revised forecast in August. This year in May they predicted an average/slightly above average season with a 70% chance of an estimated 10 to 16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes of which between one and four could be major hurricanes. This forecast is similar to their initial 2017 predictions.
This again puts their worst case scenario slightly ahead of Colorado State University.
NOAA made their revised forecast in early August and they have decreased their figures slightly to predict a 70% chance of there being 9 to 13 named storms, four to seven hurricanes of which zero to two could be major hurricanes.
This could make 2018 a fairly quiet season.
AccuWeather.com normally produce their forecast around the middle of May and this year is predicting 12 to 15 named storms with six to eight hurricanes of which three to five could become major hurricanes. Tropical Storm Risk is predicting 12 named storms and six hurricanes of which two could become major. Earth Networks who power WeatherBug are predicting 10 to 15 named storms including five to eight hurricanes of which two to four could be major.
Everyone seems to agree that the combination of cooler Atlantic sea temperatures and the emergence of El Niño will result in a quieter season. However, no one should be complacent; any bad storm can threaten life.
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 Andrew in 1992 or Katrina and Sandy more recently. 2017 ended up being far worse than anybodies predictions.
In 1992 there were only seven named storms making it a “quiet” year but the first storm of the season, the 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 2018
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 2018 are as follows:
Like 2017, the first storm of 2018, Subtropical Storm Alberto formed before the official start of the hurricane season on Friday, May 25, about 50 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico on the Yucatan peninsula. It started moving north-northeast at 6 mph with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.
Following recent heavy rain around the Gulf, flash floods and heavy rain were expected in parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana over Memorial Day weekend.
On Sunday, May 27, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama all declared a state of emergency. A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect for the entire Gulf Coast of Florida as Alberto tracked north with wind speeds of up to 50 mph.
Alberto made landfall on Florida’s Panhandle on Monday afternoon near Laguna Beach with up to a 4 foot storm surge and up to 8 inches of rain predicted across a 150 mile wide front.
It quickly passed into Alabama as the wind speeds decreased to 30 mph, becoming a Subtropical Depression.
Tropical Storm Beryl formed on July 5 in the South Caribbean Sea between Cabo Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles. It was expected to weaken as it moved northwesterly towards the Lesser Antilles, southeast of Puerto Rico.
Instead it strengthened to a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 75 mph, the first of the 2018 season. It started moving westwards at 14 mph but by July 7 it had weakened back to a Tropical Storm.
It passed over Dominica with wind speeds of 40 mph and has further dissipated bringing heavy rain to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
It was not expected to strengthen and it veered north away from the Florida Atlantic coast.
On July 9, Tropical Storm Chris formed off the Carolinas coastline, southeast of the North Carolina Outer Banks. By the next day it had strengthened to hurricane status with wind speeds of 85 mph.
It was moving in a northeasterly parallel to the coastline and by Wednesday had strengthened to a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 105 mph. Winds were expected to reach 135 mph before it started to weaken.
Debby formed as a Subtropical Storm in the North Atlantic west of the Azores on August 7. It started heading northwards away from the US coastline at 16 mph with maximum wind speeds of 40 mph.
By the following day it had strengthened to a Tropical Storm and was expected to strengthen further before weakening over the next couple of days as it veered more easterly towards Europe.
Like Debby before it, Ernesto also formed as a Subtropical Storm in the North Atlantic, on August 15. It was tracking north northeast at 10 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph. It to strengthened into a Tropical Storm with speeds of 60 mph.
It was well clear of the Eastern US seaboard and was forecast to hit the United Kingdom around August 19. It weakened into a post-tropical cyclone as it approached the west coast of Ireland.
Tropical Storm Florence formed several hundred miles southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands on September 1 and started heading west-northwest at 13 mph with wind speeds of 35 mph.
Originally it had been forecast to remain fairly steady and was not expected to reach the US coastline as it veered onto a more northerly heading.
However it briefly reach category 4 status on September 5, the first major hurricane of the 2018 season before returning to a category 1 with wind speeds of 90 mph.
The forecast models then showed it on a more westerly track and by Thursday it had strengthened to a category 2 hurricane.
It was expected to make landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday morning as a category 2 hurricane with gusts of 125 mph. North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC all declared states of emergency and up to 1.7 million people were ordered to evacuate.
It slowed down to a crawl as it hits the coast near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on September 14 with heavy storm surges and widespread flooding. Nearly 36 inches of rain was recorded in Elizabethtown, North Carolina.
At least 45 people died as a result of Hurricane Florence with an estimated $38 billion damage.
Tropical Storm Gordon formed over the Upper Keys on September 3 with wind speeds of 45 mph. It brought heavy rain and gusty winds to South Florida and the Gulf Coast.
It tracked up the Gulf Coast of Florida and made landfall close to Biloxi, Mississippi with wind speeds of 70 mph but it quickly dissipated.
At least one death was caused by the storm.
Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all declared states of emergency.
Tropical Storm Helene formed off the coast of Senegal, West Africa on September 8. By the following day it had become a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 85 mph.
It started tracking west northwest and by Thursday it had veered onto a more northerly track. It was forecast to continue tracking northwards as a category 1 hurricane and then northeasterly towards Ireland and the United Kingdom.
On the same day as Helene, Tropical Storm Isaac formed west of the Cabo Verde Islands. Like Helene it quickly became a hurricane making it the third concurrent active hurricane along with Florence and Helene.
It started moving westwards at about 14 mph and was forecast to track towards the Eastern Caribbean.
By Thursday it was east of Dominica as a Tropical Storm with wind speeds of 45 mph. It gradually dissipated by September 15.
Subtropical Storm Joyce formed off the west coast of Africa on September 12 becoming the fourth consecutive active storm.
It started tracking south westerly with wind speeds of 45 mph. It interacted with Hurricane Helene as it turned eastwards and weakened into a Tropical Depression.
Tropical Storm Kirk formed on September 22 off the west coast of Africa near Sierra Leone and started quickly tracking westwards at 21 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph.
It was expected to strengthen a little as it moved towards the Eastern Caribbean but by September 24 it had degenerated only to become a tropical storm once again.
It made landfall on St Lucia on September 28 but degenerated again the following day.
Subtropical Storm Leslie formed on September 23 southwest of the Azores with wind speeds of 40 mph. Initially it slowly moved westwards at 3 mph but was expected to be pushed back eastwards over the next 24 hours.
Like Kirk before it Leslie also weakened before strengthening into the sixth hurricane of the season.
By October 8, it was around 1,000 miles east-northeast of Bermuda with wind speeds of 50 mph moving east-southeast at 14 mph.
On October 7, Tropical Storm Michael formed in southwestern Caribbean Sea off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
By October 8, it became a hurricane and continued moving north at 7 mph with wind speeds of 75 mph.
It was forecast to strengthen into a major hurricane with wind speeds of 120 mph and make landfall somewhere in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday. Florida declared a state of emergency in advance of the impact.
By the early hours of Wednesday morning it had strengthened into a major category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 140 mph, heading northwards at 13 mph.
Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Panhandle coastline near Mexico Beach bringing a dangerous storm surge and heavy rain. Over half a million people were left without power in its wake.
Wind speeds reached 155 mph as it hit the coast, making it the third strongest storm in history to hit mainland USA. By Thursday wind speeds were still around 50 mph as it tracks north eastwards towards the Atlantic coast through the Carolinas and Virginia. It is expected to strengthen once over water again.
At least two people have died in the USA plus a further 13 in Central America.