The 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends today. It marked the third year in a row with above average activity.
According to NOAA, there were fifteen named storms this season. Of these, eight developed into hurricanes and two were major hurricanes with ratings of category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. An average season produces twelve named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. It is also interesting to note that this season was the first since 2008 to have four named storms active at the same time – Florence, Helene, Isaac, and Joyce.
Officially running from June 1 to November 30, the season got off to an early start with Tropical Storm Alberto forming in May. This was the fourth consecutive year to see a pre-season storm develop. The biggest names of the season, however, were Florence and Michael.
In September, Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina and dumped a massive amount of rain on the area. Traveling inland, it caused catastrophic flooding in parts of both North and South Carolina. In Elizabethtown, NC, 35.93 inches of rain was reported, making the wettest tropical cyclone on record for the state. For the contiguous US, it ranked as the eighth wettest.
A few weeks later, Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle as a cat-4 storm. With winds measured up to 155mph, it was the strongest storm on record to strike the region and the third strongest storm to make landfall in the continental US. Its powerful winds and storm surge flooding decimated the Panama City area.
Causing so much destruction, both Florence and Michel will likely be retired from the World Meteorological Organization’s list of storm names.
This active hurricane season was largely the result of above-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and ENSO neutral conditions in the Pacific. With warm water to fuel storms coupled with reduced wind shear across the Gulf of Mexico, tropical development in the Atlantic basin was essentially unhindered.
Overall, the season is reported to have claimed the lives of 154 people and caused an estimated $33 billion in damages. The official tally from NOAA will not be available until early 2019.