The 2008 Hurricane Season: What's Left?
Posted September 18, 2008
The worst is behind us. At least, climatologically.
We're now a week past the peak of hurricane season, which climate records say is September 10th. After this, the likelihood that a storm will form begins to slide. Among the things that contribute to that decline, in no particular order:
- Fall weather patterns aren't as conducive to landfalling hurricanes along the southeastern coast of the US.
- Sea surface temperatures -- an indication of how much energy is available for hurricanes to grow -- begin to trend downward.
- The favored areas for tropical development shift to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, both of which tend to favor storms that make landfall in the Gulf or re-curve back into the Atlantic before making landfall.
The good news is, according to the Jeff Orrock with the National Weather Service's Raleigh office, only ten tropical systems -- most of them remnant depressions -- have tracked directly across central North Carolina during the months of October and November since 1852, and only a total of about 30 have affected us in any way in that same time frame.
But that doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet.
Folks who have been in North Carolina for a long time remember one storm above all others: Hazel. While Fran (1996) and Floyd (1999) are the worst storms in recent memory, Hurricane Hazel is North Carolina's Katrina. According to the NWS, It made landfall near Wilmington on October 15, 1954, as a monster Category 4 storm, bringing winds of 140mph to Wilmington and 90mph to the Triangle. When it was all done, it had dumped 6-10 inches of rainfall and severely damaged or destroyed 50,000 structures across eastern North Carolina. Orrock says that if a storm of Hazel's magnitude were to strike us again, it would be "catastrophic".
Bottom line: We've weathered the worst of the season, but it's not over yet. Hurricane season runs through the end of November. No matter when the storms form, you can count on WRAL to track the storms from development to landfall and beyond.