How does the 2017 hurricane season stack up?

Courtesy NOAA/NASA

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Hurricane season is coming to a close and will officially end November 30. This year’s season will be remembered for the massive amounts of rainfall from Hurricane Harvey as well as the destruction in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria.

This year has been a hyperactive year with seven tropical storms, 10 hurricanes, and six major hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey was also the first major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

There are some broken records this year and the National Hurricane Center will review the 2017 hurricane season in 2018. This is how the 2017 hurricane season stacks up before the NHC review:

Earliest Hurricane

Tropical Storm Arlene was the first named storm of 2017. It formed in the Atlantic on April 19 and is the 2nd tropical storm to form in April, the former being Tropical Storm Ana in 2003. Although Arlene was a rare off-season storm, it is not the earliest tropical storm on record.

The most recent off-season storm was Hurricane Alex that formed last year in the Atlantic. It developed first into a subtropical storm on January 12 before strengthening to a hurricane on January 14. It even made landfall as a tropical storm on the Terceira Island of the Azores January 15. The earliest hurricane on record was an unnamed hurricane in 1938 that formed on January 3.

There have also been two storms that formed on December 30 and spanned two calendar years. They include Hurricane Alice (1954) and Tropical Storm Zeta (2005). The earliest tropical storm to make landfall in the United States was the Groundhog Day tropical storm (1952) that formed on February 3 and made landfall in Florida.

Active Season
We saw an above-average number of named storms this year, topping off at 17 storms from April through November. In an average season, the Atlantic Basin will see 11 to 13 named storms.
Data Source: National Hurricane Center

2017 places 5th for most active hurricane season.

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE)

Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) is a wind-based measure used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to express the destructive potential of a tropical cyclone or an entire tropical cyclone season. The ACE for a hurricane season is determined by taking the sum of ACE for each storm and takes into account the number, strength, and duration of all the tropical storms in the season.

Data Source: Hurricane Research Division

 

According to Colorado State University, the ACE of this year’s hurricane season is 226. This would place 2017 in 7th place for Accumulated Cyclone Energy behind 2004.

Costliest Seasons

Official reports have not come out for this year’s hurricane season, but Moody’s Analytics estimated in September that the combined U.S. property damage from Hurricane Harvey and Irma could range from $150 to $200 billion.

Polluted floodwater surrounds homes in Beaumont, Texas, about 70 miles east-northeast of Houston, Aug. 31, 2017. Courtesy of ABC News

 

This would place 2017 in second for the costliest hurricane season, right behind 2005 at $212.9 billion.

Death Toll

The death toll for the 2017 hurricane season is still being determined, but it is significantly less than the deadliest hurricane seasons.

The deadliest hurricane season on record was due the Great Galveston Hurricane that impacted Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Category 4 hurricane had winds that surpassed 135 mph and took the lives of 8,000 to 12,000 people. This makes it by far the deadliest hurricane on record.

Puerto Rico Picture | Hurricane Maria pummels Puerto Rico. Courtesy of ABC News

 

The most recent and third deadliest hurricane is Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hurricane Katrina made its initial landfall in Florida on August 25 and strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico. It weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph before making its second landfall in southeast Louisiana.

According to the National Weather Service in Mobile/Pensacola, Katrina caused 1,833 fatalities and over $108 billion in damages (un-adjusted 2005 dollars). By the end of the 2005 hurricane season, over 2000 lives were lost. This made the 2005 hurricane season the 4th deadliest hurricane season behind 1893 (~3000 deaths) and 1928 (2500 deaths).

Number of Hurricanes at Once

Another thing that made the 2017 hurricane season stand out was when three hurricanes were present in the Atlantic Basic at one time. They include Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose, and Hurricane Katia.

From left to right, Hurricane Katia, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Jose. Courtesy: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This is not all uncommon as the last time the Atlantic Basin saw three hurricanes at once was in 2010 with Igor, Julia, and Karl. In 1998, four hurricanes were churning in the Atlantic: Georges, Ivan, Jeanne, and Karl.

Strongest U.S. Hurricanes (Maximum Sustained Winds)

Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria were all major hurricanes and impacted many lives, but they are not the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in the United States. In terms of maximum sustained winds, Hurricane Andrew (1992), Hurricane Camille (1969), and the Labor Day Hurricane (1935) are the strongest and only Category 5 hurricanes to impact the United States. Winds over 157 mph were reported with these storms. Camille had winds estimates of 200 mph along the Mississippi Coast as it made landfall.

Hurricane Harvey, Courtesy of NASA

Most Intense U.S. Hurricanes (Pressure)

In terms of pressure, the strongest hurricane on record to impact the United States was the Labor Day Hurricane. The pressure fell to 892 millibars (26.35 inches) when the storm moved over the Florida Keys in 1935. Hurricane Maria’s pressure at landfall in Puerto Rico was recorded at 917 millibars.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane and its pressure was recorded at 917 millibars (27.08 inches). This makes it the third most intense hurricane to make landfall in the United States, bumping Hurricane Katrina to the 4th spot.

Notable Things

A few things that make this year’s hurricane season stand out include Hurricane Harvey’s record-breaking rainfall recorded at 60.54 inches from a station less than 5 miles southeast of Nederland near Groves, Tex. This makes Harvey the wettest tropical storm to impact the United States.

Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane gives the United States a record of having three Category 4 or stronger storms to make landfall in a single year (Harvey, Irma, and Maria).

From Hurricane Franklin to Hurricane Ophelia, the last time the Atlantic Basin has seen 10 hurricanes in a row was in 1893.

Colorado State University compiled a long list of Hurricane Irma records that you can find here.

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