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Hurricane Facts & Tips - Atlantic Hurricane Season - 21 September – 14 October Print E-mail
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Written by By Rudolph Williams   
Thursday, 12 October 2017 00:00

Atlantic Hurricane Season

Between 1851 and 2016 and during 21 September to 10 October, two hundred and ninety-two (292) tropical cyclones formed in the Atlantic Basin.  Eighty (80) cyclones formed in the MDR, 39 formed in the region of the Bahamas and United States Eastern Seaboard, 31 in the North Atlantic Ocean, 33 formed in the Gulf of Mexico, and 59 formed in the Caribbean Sea.  During the months of October and November, the origins of Storms usually shift to the western Caribbean Sea, which have a higher sea surface temperature during these months.

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season has been an above normal season.  Professor Gabriel Vecchi, stated “… it’s unambiguous that over the last 30 years, hurricane activity in the Atlantic has increased. I don’t think there’s reason to doubt that…”.  To date we have matched the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season forecast is for 16 named storms and we have exceeded the forecast for 6 hurricanes and 3 major storms.  So far there were 9 hurricanes and 5 major storms.  There were two CAT 5 storms this year; only 1932, 1933, 1961, 2005 and 2007 have had multiple CAT 5 storms. The 2017 season is ranked the 8th season with the highest ACE,  higher that 1961, which ranked 9th (the year of Hattie) and 1998 (the year of Mitch) ranked 10th. The season is not over; we still have the remainder of October and November.

September 2017 has lived up to its reputation as the month with the peak activity in the Atlantic Basin.   September 8, 2017 was the day with the most Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), 155.4, and so far September 2017 has the 5th highest Atlantic season ACE, 207, since 1950.  ACE is a measure related to the sum of the maximum wind speed of the season’s Tropical Cyclones.  It also has the highest ACE for any month in the Atlantic, surpassing September 2004.  September now holds the record for major Hurricane Days and most likely will hold the record for most Named Storm Days.  The September 5, 2017 CAT 5 Irma had a lot of stamina; it maintained 185 mph winds for 37 hours and superseded Super Typhoon Haiyan by 13 hours.  Irma matched the 1932 Cuba Hurricane as the longest lasting CAT 5 in the Atlantic. The September CAT 5 Irma ravaged the Leeward Islands, Cuba and the United States.  The 10th most intense CAT 5 Hurricane Maria closely followed Irma wreaking havoc on the already stricken Leeward Islands, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the United States.

Not to be left behind, October 2017 started with the formation of TD 16, turned Tropical Storm Nate, in the Southwestern Caribbean Sea.  Nate marked the first time since 1893 that 9 consecutive named storms strengthened into hurricanes.  Nate was closely followed by TD 17, which formed in the eastern subtropical Atlantic and strengthened into Hurricane Ophelia.

Belize’s Hurricane Season

For us here in Belize, our Hurricane Season peaks in September with 16 cyclones and October follows closely behind with 15 cyclones impacting Belize and its coastal waters during 1851 to 2016.  During 21 September – 14 October, 18 Cyclones impacted Belize and its coastal waters.  There were 14 September cyclones and four (4) October 01 – 14 cyclones of which 7 September and the 4 October cyclones formed in the Western Caribbean Sea.

1955 CAT 5 Janet

Hurricane Janet was the most powerful tropical cyclone of the 1955 Atlantic hurricane season and one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record.  TS Janet formed east of the Lesser Antilles on September 21 and took the trans- Caribbean Sea journey fluctuating in intensity, shifting from a CAT 1, to CAT 2, then TS, to a CAT 2, then to a CAT 3, then to a CAT 4, before reaching its peak intensity as a CAT 5 Hurricane with winds of 175 mph on 27 September.  Janet made landfall near Chetumal on the 28 September.  Belizeans are convinced that the eye of Janet passed over Corozal Town.   Janet moved over the Yucatán Peninsula and into the Bay of Campeche, where it slightly strengthened before making its final landfall near Veracruz on September 29. Janet quickly weakened over Mexico's mountainous terrain before dissipating on September 30.

Impacts of 1955 JANET,

IRMA, and MARIA

Janet affected the Lesser Antilles, ABC islands, and Central America. At least $65.8 million in damages and 1,023 deaths were caused by Janet, mostly in Quintana Roo. In Belize, the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts experienced severe devastation from Janet. The storm left 16 persons dead and more than $5 million in damages in Belize. Over 20,000 people were left homeless in the districts of Corozal and Orange Walk.  In Corozal Town, 500 people were made homeless, and sixteen people were killed. About 90% of all buildings in Corozal Town were destroyed, and communications were knocked out by the strong winds. Janet resulted in major reconstruction of Corozal Town.

The CAT 5 Irma destroyed 95% of developments on Barbuda and Saint Martin in northern Leeward Islands and at least 1,400 people are homeless in Barbuda. In Cuba, there was massive damage to infrastructure.  Irma caused at least 134 deaths, 44 in the Caribbean, and 90 in the United States and the damage is estimated at US $63,000,000.  The combined direct and indirect fatalities due to Maria is estimated at 65 and 25 respectively.  Also the damage is estimated at US $51.2 billion.

This week’s Tips - Understanding the Terminology

A. A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation. Tropical cyclones rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.

B. Tropical Depression—A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.

C. Tropical Storm— A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).

D. Hurricane—A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.

E. Major Hurricane—A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffr-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

F. A Post-Tropical Cyclone is a system that no longer possesses sufficient tropical characteristics to be considered a tropical cyclone. Post-tropical cyclones can still bring heavy rain and high winds.

Stay tuned for Next Week’s Hurricane Facts & Tips.