2004 Hurricane Season

The hurricane season of 2004 was one for the record books and not to be forgotten anytime soon by those living in the state of Florida. Between June 1st and November 30th, the state was hit with a record (at the time) five storms, four of which were hurricanes. The rundown:

Storm Name Dates Landfall Winds U.S. Death Toll Damage $$$
Bonnie Aug. 3- Aug. 12 50 mph- Trop Storm 3 killed Minimal
Charley Aug. 9- Aug. 14 145 mph- Cat 4 10 killed $15.0 billion
Frances Aug. 24-Sep. 7 105 mph- Cat 3 48 killed $8.9 billion*
Ivan Sep. 2- Sep. 24 135 mph- Cat 4 50 killed $14.2 billion
Jeanne Sep. 13- Sep. 28 115 mph- Cat 3 17 killed $6.9 billion

*Includes $100 million worth of damage to Cape Canaveral.

In 2005 Florida took a direct hit from Dennis (in the panhandle) and Wilma (southwest and southeast Florida). The state was brushed by Rita ( Florida Keys) and was on the outskirts of Katrina when winds affected the panhandle (although Katrina did cross the Keys as a minimal Category 1 storm). For the record (until 2005) the only other time in history any state was hit with as many hurricanes was way back in 1886 when Texas was hit with four hurricanes. Seven years later (1893) Florida was technically hit with four hurricanes, but in reality only two made landfall in the state while the other two were glancing blows.

Before the 2004 season, three hurricanes have made landfall in Florida in the same season a total of four times: 1852 (between August and October), 1871 (between August and September), 1886 (between June and July) and in 1964 (between August and October).

When both Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricane Charley hit Florida, it was the first time in 98 years (since 1906) the state had been hit with two storms in a 24 hour period. Meteorologists were also worried about the Fujiwara (Fujiwhara) Effect: two storms colliding over an area and then essentially spinning around each other as each feeds off of the other’s energy. Luckily, Bonnie hit Florida’s panhandle to the north and Charley made what can only be described as a crazy-ass sudden right turn and hit Charlotte County well to the south.

2004 also saw another record: for the second time in modern history, meteorologists were able to simultaneously view four storms by satellite. The four (Ivan, Jeanne, Karl and Lisa) were viewed on September 23, 2004 (all would either reach or had been at hurricane status, although not at the same time). On September 25, 1998, for the first and only time to date, satellites were able to photograph four hurricanes simultaneously spinning in the Atlantic basin (each with sustained winds of over 75 mph). For you trivia buffs, three of those storms had the same names as the 2004 storms (Ivan, Jeanne and Karl). The fourth storm of that 1998 season was Georges; Georges was a Category 4 storm with 150 mph sustained winds. The storm killed over 500 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Georges’ name was retired after the 1998 hurricane season. Also in 2004 (August 13th and 14th) four systems were observed simultaneously, but two of them were not considered major: Tropical Storm Bonnie, Hurricane Charlie, Hurricane Danielle and Tropical Storm Earl (which was actually a tropical depression at the time).

In early 2008, four storms in the Atlantic and Pacific basin were seen from space at the same time, but they were also minor in comparison: Tropical Storms Fausto and Genevieve in the Pacific and tropical storm Cristobal and Hurricane Dolly in the Atlantic. Fausto and Genevieve turned out to sea, Cristobal first dumped rain on the Carolinas and then made a glancing brush past New England and Dolly hit southern Texas as a very weak storm. On September 2, 2008, another “tropical quartet” were all churning in the Atlantic basin simultaneously: tropical storms Gustav, Hanna, Ike and Josephine were all in various stages of development or disintegration (Gustav was in the last throws of life after landfall near New Orleans a day before, Hanna, Ike and Josephine were all tropical storms heading towards the U.S. from the Atlantic ocean with Hanna fluctuating between tropical storm and Category 1 status). Four hurricanes were said to be in the Atlantic Basin on August 22, 1893 (obviously we didn’t have satellites back then, so the verification could be called somewhat weak).

As for the last record of 2004, it was a busy month of August: eight named storms formed during the month, a new record breaking the old one of seven storms forming in August (1933 and 1995). The eight storms in August 2004 also tied the record of the most named storms to form in any single month (done only one other time: September 2002).

Anything else to know about the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season?

As mentioned, Hurricane Ivan actually hit the United States twice- after its first rampage through the Alabama and the Florida panhandle on September 16, 2004, a remnant low pressure system of Ivan looped back over the southern part of the U.S. and developed into a tropical storm (still keeping the name Ivan). TS Ivan then hit Texas and Louisiana on September 22nd and 23rd with sustained winds of 65 mph…

Ivan was also a strange storm in that it was the most southern forming storm on record: Ivan hit Category 3 status at 10 degrees latitude, the furthest south scientists had ever seen a major hurricane…

Most people will remember counting Hurricane Jeanne out of the mix, until the storm literally did a loop of its own and came back to hit the Bahamas and eastern coast of Florida…

That landfall by the way was the first time since 1893 a major hurricane had hit north of Palm Beach and south of the Georgia/South Carolina border…

By the time all was said and done, Hurricane Frances spawned 117 different tornadoes. Yep- that was another record, beating Hurricane Beulah (1967)…

The 2005 season seemed to pick right up where 2004 left off: there were four named storms in the first 35 days (Arlene, Bret, Cindy and Dennis), another new record…

Finally, as mentioned, three of the five costliest storms on record (at the time) occurred in 2004: Charley, Ivan and Frances. The 2005 severe storms of Rita, Wilma and Katrina shuffled up the entire list (see costliest storms section)…