Hurricane season still ‘extremely active’ | News

Adella Miesner

With two months remaining in the 2020 hurricane season, Lowcountry residents have remained largely unaffected by serious storms generated in the Atlantic. Still, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center have recorded 24 named storms — more than twice the average year — and urge residents to remain prepared. National Hurricane […]

With two months remaining in the 2020 hurricane season, Lowcountry residents have remained largely unaffected by serious storms generated in the Atlantic.

Still, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center have recorded 24 named storms — more than twice the average year — and urge residents to remain prepared.

National Hurricane Center forecasters have labeled 2020’s season an “extremely active” season, so active in fact, they have exhausted their list of names, which began with Tropical Storm Arthur on May 16 and ran out with Wilfred on Sept. 18. Two more storms, which formed within six hours of Wilfred were given the names Alpha and Beta.

On Aug. 21, Hurricane Laura became the first major hurricane of the season, making landfall in southwest Louisiana with winds clocked at 150 miles per hour. According to news reports from the area, the Category 4 storms has claimed 26 lives in Texas and Louisiana and caused at least $10 billion in damages. The storm has been listed as the worst storm in the region’s history.

Of the 24 named storms, eight have risen to hurricane status and two of those have been classified as major hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Major hurricanes, storms that reach Category 3 or higher, produce winds at least 111 miles per hour and cause “devastating damage. Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

By comparison, 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm when it made landfall on Sullivan’s Island, brought with it winds of 138 mph, with gusts recorded at more than 160 mph.

In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its midseason forecast, again forecasting an “extremely active” hurricane season that could see 19-25 named storms, up to 11 hurricanes, and up to six major hurricanes.

That dire forecast seems almost alarmist, especially since the past week has shown no storms forming in the mid-Atlantic, and none expected in the at least the next 48 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Experts, however, said tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes can appear very rapidly and have hard-to-predict paths.

According to Colorado State University, which has been issuing its forecast for the Atlantic basin for 37 years, the 2020 season’s characteristics are comparable to 1966, 1995, 2003, 2010 and 2017.

“All of these seasons were very active in the Atlantic basin, with several (most notably 1995, 2005 and 2017) being extremely active,” said Phil Klotzbach, in a report from the Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU.

“It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season,” said Michael Bell, associate professor in the CSU Department of Atmospheric Science.

Lowcountry residents may remember 2017’s Hurricane Irma, which rose to Category 5 status when it moved through the Caribbean and came ashore in Miami, Florida.

By the time Irma arrived in South Carolina’s Lowcountry on Sept. 11, 2019, it had had been downgraded to a Category 1 storm or severe tropical storm. Nonetheless, it generated flash floods on the Ashley, Edisto and Santee rivers as well as French Quarter Creek in Huger and Turkey Creek in Hanahan.

No loss of life was reported, but severe flooding took place in low-lying areas. Some trees were uprooted and power was cut to about 4,500 people between Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

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