We’re all looking forward to the year 2020 finally being over – witness the abundance of memes on social media about how we can’t wait for it to end. We’ve muddled through COVID, the biggest public health disaster in generations, and everything that has brought with it. Luckily for us, the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season didn’t turn out to be as bad as the predictions implied back in May.
Just our luck, the 2020 hurricane season turned out to be worse than they thought. Record-breaking, in fact. Our friends at PS Energy put together a really nice infographic to bring you the rundown of interesting facts about 2020’s monumental hurricane season. We’ve picked out a few of the more notable facts to comment on.
The season began early when Tropical Storm Arthur formed on May 16th in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida — marking the sixth consecutive year that the season started before the June 1st official start.
That’s an interesting aspect of the hurricane seasons of recent years – they’re getting started earlier and earlier. Six consecutive years with the season actually starting before the traditional start date is a pretty solid trend. And the trend matters because both government officials and residents in hurricane-affected states use the traditional start date of the season to inform the decisions they make for both preparation and for funding.
September had ten named storm formations, which is the most on record for the season’s busiest month. The previous record was eight in 2002, 2007, and 2010.
Despite the season running from June through November, September is considered the peak month of the hurricane season. This year, September did not disappoint us. September was the busiest month last year, in 2019, as well.
The graphic also mentioned the fact that, this year, the storms seemed to form at a record-setting pace. 2005 had originally set the pace to beat, if you’re going by when the specific number of named storm formed. In 2005, the 13th named storm of the season (Hurricane Maria) formed on September 2nd. This year, we got our 13th storm a full 10 days ahead of that record, on August 22nd. And we got our 14th and 15th storms on September 1st. All throughout September, named storms were forming at a breakneck pace. We got our 17th storm by September 7th (the previous record was the 18th) and we were up to 20 storms by September 14th (the previous record was October 5th). Once the smoke of September cleared, we were up to 23 named storm, which beat the previous record by a full month (!).
Hurricane Zeta killed six people and left 2.6 million people without power across seven states from Louisiana to Virginia. Damage from Zeta will cost insurers as much as $4.4 billion.
Despite having so many storms during 2020, it may feel to some like the hurricane season was busy but not that bad. Perception is a big part of that, and major hurricanes that make direct hits on the US mainland help shape that perception. It didn’t seem like we had that many. Yet, for the people in states that were hit by storms like Hurricane Zeta, the season was as bad as any other. The infographic noted that Hurricane Zeta cost more than $4 billion in damage across 7 states. Sometimes we lose perspective on how big those numbers are. But compare the aforementioned Hurricane Zeta to Hurricane Dorian from last year. Dorian was a Category 5 storm, the strongest storm of all time to hit the Bahamas. Between the Bahamas and the United States, it caused $4.6 billion in damage. Hurricane Zeta – which nobody is going to remember (except for those in its path) – caused $4.4 billion in damage.
This post was published on December 8, 2020 and was updated on December 8, 2020.