Hurricane Tidbits

The following is a collection of tidbits useful in the coverage of a storm or the process of putting together a storm related story:

From August 10th, 1980 to August 18th, 1983, the U.S. mainland was hurricane free (over three years), the longest period during the twentieth century storms didn’t make landfall (Hurricane Allen- 1980 to Hurricane Alicia- 1983)…

1998-2008 is considered one of the most active hurricane periods in the history of the Atlantic Basin. One aspect signifying above average activity: at least one name has been retired each year in that period (28 names in all), with the exception of 2006 (no names were retired for that year)…

The most storms in one season came in 2005: 28 storms (including one no-name storm) of which 15 were hurricanes and seven were considered severe (Category 3 or higher). Previous to 2005, the record was 21 storms in the 1933 season…

The least amount of hurricanes in a season came in 1983 when there were only four named storms…

In 1969, Hurricane Camille produced a 25-foot storm surge in Mississippi. Camille sustained Category 5 strength for 30 consecutive hours…

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo produced a 20-foot storm surge in South Carolina. Contrary to Camille, Hugo was only a Category 5 storm for six hours…

Hurricane Mitch (October 1998) was a Category 5 storm with sustained winds in excess of 180 mph (gusting to 200 mph). Mitch killed over 11,000 people in Honduras and Nicaragua (it is the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record behind the Great Hurricane/Hurricane San Calixto II of 1780 which killed 22,000 people)…

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is the deadliest to ever hit the United States, killing an estimated 6,000-8,000 people. Most of those killed during the storm were drowned by the storm tide. Some news outlets report the 1900 storm killed upwards of 8,000 to 12,000 people…

After the 1928 Lake Okeechobee, some 674 corpses of black farm workers were removed from the area, trucked to West Palm Beach, and dumped in a mass grave. After relentless pressure from community groups (led by activist Robert Hazard), in December of 2000 the city purchased a track of land where the corpses were believed to be with plans to build a memorial honoring the dead. The memorial was dedicated on September 16th, 2008, on the 80 year anniversary of the storm…

The aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison (2001) is the only time a name assigned to a tropical storm has been retired. Allison killed 41 people and caused an estimated $5 billion worth of damage in Galveston and Houston…

2011 marked the first time in history the U.S. has gone six consecutive years without being hit by a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher). The second longest streak occurred between 1910 and 1914…

Remember Tropical Storm Gert in 2011? Um yeah- NO ONE remembers TS Gert because the storm didn’t do much of anything. But Gert goes down in the history books because it was the first time since record keeping began that seven named storms in a row in a season failed to reach hurricane strength. The previous record was in 2002 when there was a streak of six in a row that never made it to at least Category 1 status. Harvey extended the 2011 record to eight storms in a row before the streak was broken when Irene became a Category 1 storm on August 22nd, 2011…

2010 was an interesting hurricane season: no hurricanes of any strength made landfall in the U.S., marking only the thirteenth time in modern history (1945-2011) that has ever occurred during a storm season. In 2010, just two storms hit the U.S.- Bonnie brushed through the Florida Keys alternating between a tropical storm and tropical depression (July 24th) and Hermine weakened from a tropical storm to a tropical depression as it crossed into Texas from Mexico (September 9th)…

2010 was also the first time the U.S. was not hit by a hurricane in a season when there were ten or more hurricanes. Twelve of the 19 named storms in 2010 were hurricanes and five of those were considered severe (winds of 111 mph or higher). Those 12 hurricanes tied for second in terms of the most in a season (there were also 12 hurricanes in both 1969 and 1887). Both years trailed 2005 which had 15 hurricanes…

Previous to 2010, the last three times the U.S. went a full season without getting hit by any type of hurricane were in 2009, 2006, and before that, 2001…

Though the U.S. escaped any direct hits from hurricanes in 2010, it was tied with 1995 and 1887 (and later 2011) as the third busiest season on record in terms of named storms (19) behind 1933 (21 named storms) and 2005 (28 named storms)…

Two final notes for 2010: eleven named storms formed between August 22nd and September 29th, the most on record ever in that five week time frame. And- over a period of twenty days within that time frame, five of those eleven storms had winds that reached Category 4 status…

2008 was also one for the record books: it was the first time in history there were Category 3 or higher storms (considered severe) in five different months: Bertha (July) and Omar (October) were Category 3 storms; Gustav (August), Ike (September) and Paloma (November) were Category 4s…

By the way, all three of those 2008 Category 4 storms ran across the island of Cuba; the names Gustav, Ike and Paloma were retired before the start of the 2009 Atlantic Basin hurricane season. Four storms devastated the island of Haiti in 2008 (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) killing around 800 people and leaving another 300+ missing…

2008 was the first time in history six consecutively named storms hit the U.S. mainland: Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike…

The Unnamed Labor Day Storm of 1935 produced the lowest barometer reading ever recorded in the United States: 26.35…

Of the 408 people killed during the Unnamed Labor Day Storm, 259 of them were World War I veterans caught by surprise in the storm. The vets were building a road along the path of the Florida East Coast Railway…

Hurricane Wilma produced the lowest minimum central pressure reading ever of a hurricane (882 millibars). Hurricane Gilbert was the second lowest ever with a reading of 888 millibars (both of those storms were still over water when their readings were measured)…

The lowest pressure reading at landfall is from the 1935 Labor Day Storm: the reading was 892 millibars. That hurricane still holds the record as the third most powerful storm ever recorded. Hurricane Allen (1980) had a reading of 899 millibars while both Hurricane Mitch (1998) and Hurricane Camille (1969) had readings of 905 millibars (see the 2005 Hurricane Season section for a list of the most powerful storms)…

Hurricane Gilbert (September 1988), although one of the most powerful Atlantic storms of the twentieth century (Category 5, 318 deaths and over $3 billion in damage), never made U.S. landfall, but spawned tornadoes, wind gusts and high tides affecting Texas…

And speaking of tornadoes, once a hurricane reaches landfall, the storms usually spawn tornadoes with as devastating an effect as the hurricane itself. Hurricane Agnes (June 1972) spawned 17 tornadoes throughout Florida and Georgia. Hurricane Gilbert (September 1988) spawned at least 29 tornadoes across Southern Texas…

Arlene is the most used name ever for a U.S. hurricane (there have been nine of them- 1959, 1963, 1967, 1971, 1981, 1987, 1993, 1999 and 2005), followed by Florence and Frances (six each)…

September is traditionally the busiest time of the Atlantic hurricane season followed by August, October, July, June and November…

Hurricane Bertha is the longest lasting storm on record for the month of July. Bertha formed on July 1st, 2008 as a tropical wave, strengthened into a tropical storm two days later, became a hurricane on July 7th (reaching Category 3 status the same day), dipped back to a tropical storm after brushing Bermuda (July 14th), strengthened again into a hurricane (as high as a Category 3) before diminishing once again and eventually dissipating. How long did all this take (from tropical storm to dissipation): 17.25 days (July 3rd through July 20th).

The system was also unique in that it formed off of the western coast of Africa near Cape Verde (July storms usually form in the eastern Caribbean and mid Atlantic Ocean). Kudos to meteorologist Keith Blackwell from the Coastal Weather Research Center at the University of South Alabama in Mobile who picked up on the fact that above average water temperatures in that area would affect the 2008 hurricane season.

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Bertha exceeded the longevity of any 2007 storm. The previous longest lasting July hurricane was 1960’s Storm No. 2 lasting 12 days…

Hurricane Ginger (1971) is on record as the longest lasting storm in the western hemisphere in modern history. Ginger was cyclonic (tropical storm strength or higher) for 27.25 days from September 5th to October 3rd, 1971, and a full fledged hurricane for 20 days (Category 1 or higher) from September 11th through September 30th, 1971…

Although Ginger is on record as the longest lasting storm in modern history in the Atlantic Basin, the record for the longest lasting storm in the recorded history of the Atlantic Basin goes to 1899’s Hurricane San Ciriaco. San Ciriaco (also known as the 1899 Puerto Rico Hurricane) was a tropical cyclone for 28 days (edging Ginger by just ¾ of a day) . San Ciriaco was most notable for devastating Puerto Rico on August 8th and 9th, killing between 3,000 and almost 3,500 people…

Furthest traveling storm record goes to 1966’s Hurricane Faith: the storm became a hurricane on August 21st west of the Cape Verde Islands and traveled all the way to the Faroe Islands (halfway between Scotland and Iceland) by September 5th, 1966. Remnants of the storm hit Norway and were tracked all the way to Russia. Faith was a storm for 16 days, 13 of which were at hurricane strength…

And in case you’re wondering, Hurricane John (also known as Typhoon John) is the longest lasting tropical cyclone ever observed in the world. John formed in the Pacific Ocean during the 1994 hurricane season. The system traveled some 8,100 miles (also a record) and because it existed in both the eastern and western parts of the Pacific, the storm was designated with both a Hurricane and Typhoon status. John formed on August 11th, 1994 and didn’t dissipate until September 10th, 1994, cyclonic for a total of 31 days…

September is traditionally the busiest time of the Atlantic hurricane season followed by August, October, July, June and November. Want some real numbers: according to an “Ask the Times” feature in the July 31st, 2009 edition of the St. Petersburg Times (page 8F), of the 1,372 storms recorded in the Atlantic Basin from 1851 to 2008, 34% formed in September, 25.3% formed in August, 20.5% in October, 7.4% in July, 5.8% in June and 4.4% in November. That leaves just 2.2% of storms developing in March, April, May, December and January. And yes, historically there has never been an Atlantic Basin hurricane in the month of February, although in 1952 Tropical Storm One made landfall in Florida (February 3rd)…

The earliest storm on record to form in the Atlantic Basin is Subtropical Storm 1 (January 18th, 1978). The earliest Atlantic Basin tropical storm on record is Tropical Storm Ana (2003), which formed on April 21st and lasted until April 24th. The earliest Atlantic Basin hurricane on record is a No Name Storm (March 7th, 1908); the 1908 storm hit the Northeast Antilles as a Category 2…

The earliest hurricane to ever make U.S. landfall was 1966’s Hurricane Alma which hit northwest Florida. Alma formed on June 4th and made landfall as a Category 1 storm five days later (June 9th, 1966). NOTE: there was another Hurricane Alma in 1970 that lasted from May 17th – May 27th and hit as a Category 1 south of the Cayman Islands…

Since 1851, only 18 tropical storms and four hurricanes have formed in the month of May…

Late storms: there’s a little bit of a controversy as to which is the latest first storm of a hurricane season: the tossup is between Hurricane Arlene in 1967 and Hurricane Anita in 1977.

Arlene became a named storm on August 30th, 1967; it was first spotted as one of four tropical depressions off of the coast of Africa on August 28th, 1967 and quickly developed into a named storm within two days. Arlene sputtered around in the Atlantic Ocean and never made landfall; the system dissipated on September 4th, 1967. In 1977, Anita was spotted as a tropical depression in the north central part of the Gulf of Mexico on August 28th, 1967, became a tropical depression on August 29th, 1977 and was named on August 30th, 1977. Being the first storm of the season, Anita was uncharacteristically intense: the system significantly strengthened over the next several days and made landfall in the eastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas as a Category 5 storm. Anita however wasn’t done; after crossing the country and weakening, the storm briefly redeveloped as a tropical depression in the Pacific Basin but dissipated by September 4th, 1977.

The tiebreaker for “latest” developing storm could be solved by the exact time meteorologists named each storm, but let’s use the full history of the storms instead: Anita formed as a tropical wave off of the coast Africa on August 16th, 1977; Arlene first formed as a tropical wave off of the coast of Africa on August 28th, 1967. For my money, the title goes to Arlene, but now that you know all of the facts, you can judge for yourself…

And just in case you’re wondering, the latest first hurricane to ever form in a season was in 2002: Gustav formed as a subtropical storm on September 8th, 2002, was named the following day (September 9th) and attained hurricane status on September 11th, 2002. In 2002, six tropical storms and one tropical depression before Gustav were incapable of reaching winds speeds above 73 mph…

How unusual is it to have the first storm of the season form in or after August? Judging by recent history, chances are it will happen somewhere between one in four and one in five times.

From 1950 to 2010, first storms of the season have formed in 13 different years in or after the month of August (nine hurricanes and four tropical storms), statistically about 22% of the time or a little more than one year of every five. The data below goes all the way back to 1950 but should really be applied from 1966 onwards after satellites were more routinely used for forecasting and storm analysis. From 1966 to 2010, ten storms (six hurricanes and four tropical storms) have formed as first storms of the season in or after the month of August (statistically the average jumps ever so slightly to 23%, closer to one in four times). NOTE: Dates given below coincide with the naming of each storm, not with the formation as either a tropical wave or tropical depression:

2009- Tropical Storm Ana (August 15th)

2004- Hurricane Alex (August 1st)

2000- Hurricane Alberto (August 3rd)

1988- Tropical Storm Alberto (August 7th)

1987- Tropical Storm Two (August 9th)*

1984- Subtropical Storm One (August 18th)*

1983- Hurricane Alicia (August 15th)

1980- Hurricane Allen (August 2nd)

1977- Hurricane Anita (August 30th)

1967- Hurricane Arlene (August 30th)

1963- Hurricane Arlene (August 2nd)

1962- Hurricane Alma (August 27th)

1950- Hurricane Able (August 12th)

*When analyzing the first storm data, it’s easy to fall into a trap: if you do your own research you’ll see that in a number of years, first named storms do occur in the month of August, yet those aren’t defined as the first storm of the season. The reason: the National Hurricane Center did not start using names for subtropical storms until 2002 (Gustav was the first subtropical storm to receive a name). Subtropical storms are hybrids: they show characteristics of a tropical storm (defined low pressure center) and an extratropical storm (colder temperature fluctuations form or intensify the system). A storm will keep its subtropical title until it becomes tropical, develops into a hurricane or dissipates. In the following years, first named storms occurred in the month of August, but each was preceded by a subtropical storm that received no name, only a number.

1992- Hurricane Andrew (August 17th) was preceded by Subtropical Storm One (April 21st)

1974- Tropical Storm Alma (August 12th) was preceded by Subtropical Storm One (June 25th)

1965- Hurricane Anna (August 21st) was preceded by Tropical Storm One (June 14th)

1964- Tropical Storm Abby (August 7th) was preceded by Tropical Storm One (June 7th) and Tropical Storm Two (July 31st)

1952- Hurricane Able (August 24th) was preceded by Tropical Storm One (February 3rd)

Now for some questions and clarification: what about those tropical storms in 1952, 1964 and 1965? Remember the National Hurricane Center not using names for subtropical storms until 2002? Tropical storms in each of those three years initially formed in subtropical regions and therefore received numbers, not names. The category of “subtropical” wasn’t formerly adopted by the National Hurricane Center until 1972 (and used to reclassify storms as far back as 1968). There is historical data that includes both names and numbers for tropical storms; the most confusing year: 1964 had Tropical Storms One, Two and Twelve as well as Tropical Storms Abby, Brenda and Florence.

And lastly, are you wondering why 1987’s first storm is named Tropical Storm Two and not given a proper name? Tropical Storm Two wasn’t defined until after the 1987 hurricane season when meteorologists went through and re-analyzed the data. In August of 1987, the system was known as Tropical Depression Two; after the season, researchers realized the system had actually strengthened into a tropical storm. Now you know…

Since 1851, only six hurricanes have ever been recorded in the Atlantic Basin in the month of December: Hurricane Epsilon (2005), Hurricane Nicole (1998), Hurricane Lili (1984), Hurricane Alice #2 (1954), Storm 2 (1925) and a No Name Storm (1887). Add to those six hurricanes four more storms (not hurricane strength) that developed in the month of December: Tropical Storm Odette (2003), Tropical Storm Peter (2003), Tropical Storm Zeta (2005) and Tropical Storm Olga (2007). NOTE: Since these storms formed well after the official end of hurricane season, there are numerous incorrect references on the Internet regarding the amount of storms for the years of 2003, 2005 and 2007. There is even an incorrect reference for 2006 as hurricane specialists went back and reviewed data to discover they had “missed” a short lived storm that formed in July. Be careful when looking for the amount of storms in 2005: not only was there a late December storm, but like 2006, hurricane specialists missed a storm in 2005 later added to their final tally (28 storms)…

Alice #2 formed on December 30, 1954, just two days before the end of the 1954 hurricane season. Alice became a Category 1 hurricane before dissipating on January 5th, 1955! The 1955 hurricane season actually started with the name Brenda (a tropical storm that formed in July). Now here’s something interesting: the reason there are two “ Alices” in 1954: in those days, hurricane specialists used the same list of names over and over again each year. “ Alice” was officially named on January 1, 1955, but after analysts looked back at weather data, they realized the system actually became a tropical cyclone on December 30th, 1954. Rather than re-name the storm (it should have gotten the name Irene), meteorologists kept the Alice name, but nicknamed it “ Alice #2”…

Tropical Storm Zeta also formed on December 30 (but in 2005) but beat Alice #2 longevity by lasting seven days into the New Year (Zeta completely dissipated by January 7th, 2006, never making landfall). As for which storm is the “last ever,” no one is sure. Because hurricane prediction and detection was not an exact science back in the 1950s, there has never been an “official” time that Alice #2 became a tropical cyclone (remember, they didn’t even notice the storm for two days).

One publication went on record to decide which storm actually holds the title: on December 31st, 2005 an article in the St Petersburg Times by Matthew Waite quoted NHC hurricane specialist James Franklin as saying the Alice #2 is still the latest (forming at 7am on 12/30) with Zeta a close second (according to Franklin, Zeta formed around 1am on 12/30)…

Hurricane Epsilon (2005) initially formed as a tropical storm in late November of 2005 and didn’t strengthen to hurricane status until December 2nd, 2005…

2003 is the only year two tropical storms formed in the Atlantic Basin in the month of December (Tropical Storm Odette and Tropical Storm Peter)…

The December trend continued in 2007: on December 10th, 2007, Subtropical Storm Olga formed over the Virgin Islands, 10 days after the official end of the season. With Olga being subtropical, the 2007 season ended the same way it began with another subtropical storm: Andrea. (NOTE: Since Olga formed after the end of the season, the storm tally is 15 storms in 2007 instead of 14- numerous Internet references are wrong)…

As the storm season progresses, chances of a hurricane hitting the state of Florida dramatically increase. According to a 2005 USA Today article, since 1900, 29 hurricanes have hit the state of Florida in September and 20 more in October…

Another tidbit (this from USA Today’s Answers Archive) states that all four hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. in the month of November have each impacted Florida as Category 1 storms: Storm #14 in 1916, Storm #2 in 1925, Hurricane Yankee in 1935 and Hurricane Kate in 1985…

More than one-third of all hurricanes that hit the United States have hit the state of Florida. Want some real numbers? According to an August 22nd, 2011 article in the St. Petersburg Times (Ask the Times, Page 9F), between 1851 and 2010, Florida has been hit by hurricanes 113 times (37 of which were major storms of Category 3 or higher). Who else has such high numbers: over the same period Texas has been hit by 63 hurricanes (19 considered major) and Louisiana has had 55 hurricanes make landfall (20 of them major)…

Three quarters of all Category 4 hurricanes have made landfall in either Florida or Texas…

In two years (2004-2005) Florida was hit by 11 different storms…

Four hurricanes made landfall in Florida in 2004: Hurricane Charley (August 13th), Hurricane Frances (September 4th), Hurricane Ivan (September 16th), Hurricane Jeanne (September 26th). Tropical Storm Bonnie hit the state on August 12th, 2004; Bonnie and Charley became the first storms in history to sequentially hit the same state within a 24 hour period…

Three hurricanes had direct landfall on Florida in 2005: Hurricane Dennis (July 10th), Hurricane Katrina (August 25th) and Hurricane Wilma (October 24th). Wilma was the worst of the bunch causing an estimated $9 billion in damage and 21 deaths. Katrina and Dennis killed 13 people in Florida. Two other storms (not hurricanes) hit Florida in 2005: Tropical Storm Arlene (June 11th) and Tropical Storm Tammy (October 5th)…

Notice I wrote Florida was hit by 11 storms in 2004 and 2005, but if you read carefully, I’ve only mentioned ten storms (you were paying attention right?). The eleventh storm is Hurricane Rita (September 20th). Rita brushed the Florida Keys and caused two deaths before strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico and barreling through Louisiana and Texas. Technically, the eye never made landfall in Florida, but the storm did affect the state (now you know)…

The Tampa Bay area of Florida (Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater) hasn’t been directly hit by a hurricane since October 24th, 1921. The Category 3 unnamed storm (also referred to as the Tarpon Springs Storm) made landfall between Brooksville and St. Leo, killed six people and caused between $1 million and $10 million worth of damage (about $92 million in 2011 dollars). The storm was so intense it sliced a partition of land into two that is now known as Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island. In 1921, there were only about 135,000 people living in Tampa Bay; by 2011, the population has swelled to about 2.7 million. Another no name storm hit near Tampa Bay on November 30th, 1925 and still holds the record (through 2010) as the latest season storm to ever make U.S. landfall.

An historical oddity about the 1921 storm: the St. Petersburg Times published what would later on be known as its “Motorcycle Extra” edition on October 26th, 1921. After the storm, the city was without electricity so to get the presses running, ingenious newspaper employees borrowed a motorcycle and attached a belt to it to run the paper’s Linotype and enable printing…

Although Tampa Bay hasn’t had a direct hit from an Atlantic Basin storm in almost a century, there have been other instances of hurricanes making landfall in the area and plenty of close calls:

On October 14th, 1846, The Great Hurricane of 1846 made landfall at Cedar Key, an area about 135 miles north of Tampa. The storm decimated the Florida Keys three days prior and moved up the west coast of the state before making its second landfall well north of Tampa Bay and then continuing into Georgia and through the mid Atlantic states…

On September 25th, 1848, The Great Gale of 1848 (also known as the Tampa Bay Hurricane) flooded the entire city and substantially changed the topography of the area (researchers believe this may have been the strongest storm ever to make landfall in Tampa Bay). New channels were cut in parts of the Gulf Coast south of Tampa Bay, forming what is today known as Longboat Key and Lido Key. The lighthouse at Egmont Key was destroyed and the tide in Tampa rose some 15 feet…

Just weeks later, a second hurricane swept through the Tampa Bay area on October 11th, 1848, but caused minimal damage…

The aforementioned November 30th, 1925 storm was the second of only two storms that year and at the time only the second occurrence of a storm making U.S. landfall in the month of November. Hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. in the month of November on only three other occasions: Storm Number 14 (November 15th, 1916), The Yankee Hurricane (November 4th, 1935) and Hurricane Kate (November 21st, 1985). All four struck the state of Florida as Category 1 storms: 1916/Florida Keys, 1925/south of Tampa, 1935/Miami and 1985/Florida Panhandle. The 1925 storm caused no significant damage in the area…

The Great Miami Hurricane crashed into Coral Gables and southern Miami as a Category 4 storm on September 18th, 1926. The system weakened as it crossed the state (brushing southward of Tampa/St. Pete and into the Gulf of Mexico) before making landfall again in Pensacola…

The Category 5 Labor Day Storm of 1935 is well known for destroying much of the Florida Keys but also affected Tampa Bay. The hurricane generated a storm surge over five feet as it moved up the west coast of the state and made landfall around Cedar Key…

The Cuba-Florida Hurricane of 1944 had weakened to a Category 1 storm when it made landfall near Sarasota on October 19th. The storm brushed past Tampa as it crossed the state over Dade City and Ocala…

The Florida Hurricane of 1946 made landfall near Spring Hill, Florida (just north of Tampa) as a very weak Category 1 on October 7th. A tornado from the storm touched down in Tampa causing minor damage and power outages…

Hurricane Easy was an extremely unpredictable storm as it followed the Gulf coastline of Florida for a day then executed two loops resulting in landfalls in Cedar Key and Homosassa Springs (both north of Tampa). Researchers believe the erratic behavior of the storm was due to the Fujiwara (Fujiwhara) Effect as Easy was being influenced by Hurricane Dog (a Category 5 storm) to the east. Hurricane Easy dropped 38 inches of rain in northern Citrus County…

On September 10th, 1960, Hurricane Donna passed to the east of Tampa making landfall between Naples and Fort Myers after a brief stay in the Gulf of Mexico. The area was buffeted by strong wind gusts (especially in Manatee and Polk counties) as Donna headed towards the Atlantic coast…

On October 19th, 1968, Hurricane Gladys made landfall between Bayport and Crystal River producing a storm surge up to seven feet and packing winds above 85 mph…

September 1985 saw one of the strangest storms to ever not hit Tampa Bay. Hurricane Elena developed between Haiti and Cuba on August 28th, 1985 and then traveled across Cuba and into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Elena moved on a northwest track before making a sudden right turn and taking direct aim at northern Florida. And then it stopped. The storm made a loop as steering currents and a frontal trough influenced its path; as a result, meteorologists couldn’t really figure out which way the storm would go next. Over 1 million people on the Gulf coasts of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi were evacuated, some twice over a three day period. Elena eventually reversed back to the northwest and made landfall in Biloxi, Mississippi…

In the chaotic hurricane season of 2004, “x” marks the spot: three separate hurricanes (Charley, Jeanne and Francis) plowed through Polk County east of Tampa Bay ( Lake Wales got the worst of it) directly hitting the area for the first time since Hurricane Donna in 1960…

For even more information on the history of many Florida hurricanes, pick up the book Florida’s Hurricane History by Jay Barnes with foreword by Steve Lyons…

Tropical Storm Fay made a record four landfalls in the state of Florida in 2008: on August 18th the storm brushed over the Keys; a day later (August 19th) it hit Cape Romano (near Naples). After crossing the state in a northeasterly direction, Fay entered the Atlantic Ocean on August 20th and then made landfall a third time at Flagler Beach (near Daytona Beach) on August 21st. Fay now continued west across northern Florida, dipped into the Gulf of Mexico and on August 23rd made landfall a fourth time in the state in Carrabelle (near Apalachicola in the panhandle). Tropical Storm Fay hung around the Atlantic Basin for a total of 12 days from August 15th through August 26th, 2008; seven of those days were spent over Florida (August 18th through August 24th)…

Aside from the landfall record, Tropical Storm Fay also holds the record for dumping the most rain in the state by a tropical system: on August 21st, 2008, state meteorologist Ben Nelson reported a rainfall total of 26.20 inches at Windover Farms (just north of Melbourne)…

Ever wonder about the record for most storms at one time in the Atlantic Basin? There are a couple of categories broken down in different ways (I also added in a category that although not a record breaker is of some interest):

Most Storms at Once- FIVE: There have been two instances when the Atlantic Basin played host to five simultaneous storms.

The first time five storms appeared simultaneously was on September 11th, 1971: Tropical Storm Edith (weakened from a strong hurricane after crossing the Yucatan Peninsula), Hurricane Fern (which made landfall in Texas the day before), Hurricane Ginger (attained hurricane status that day), Tropical Depression Heidi (which would only develop into a tropical storm) and Hurricane Irene (also attained hurricane status that day).

On August 27th, 1995, five storms appeared simultaneously for just the second time in history: Hurricane Humberto (weakening from a Category 2 hurricane), Tropical Storm Iris (in the middle of regaining enough strength to once again be classified as a hurricane), Tropical Depression Jerry (downgraded from Tropical Storm Jerry), Tropical Depression Karen (strengthening, the storm would be named the next day but never got past tropical storm wind levels) and Tropical Depression 13 (which would develop two days later into Tropical Storm Luis and the day after into Hurricane Luis).

Of note: Humberto and Iris interacted with each other in what is known as the Fujiwara (Fujiwhara) Effect: the storms collided and spun around each other feeding of one another’s energy…

Most Hurricanes at Once- FOUR: There have only been two times in history the Atlantic Basin has played host to four simultaneous hurricanes:

On August 22nd, 1893 four hurricanes were active in the Atlantic Basin all at the same time. Hurricane Three made a glancing blow to Puerto Rico days earlier as a Category 1 storm (it eventually turned to the northeast to open Atlantic waters), Hurricane Four was as high as a Category 3 storm (it would eventually make a direct hit on New York City as a Category 1 storm), the Sea Islands Hurricane was a Category 3 near the Lesser Antilles (it would eventually slam into Georgia) and Hurricane Seven was a harmless Category 2 storm (it hung out in the Atlantic Ocean causing no damage).

On September 25th and 26th of 1998 satellites photographed Hurricane Georges (making landfall as a Category 2 in Key West and then western Florida), Hurricane Ivan (spinning harmlessly in the middle of the Atlantic as a Category 1), Hurricane Jeanne (also spinning harmlessly in the middle of the Atlantic, but as a Category 2) and Hurricane Karl (another out in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic Category 2 storm). Before hitting Florida, 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 and replaced by Gaston…

Tropical Quartets of Simultaneous Storms (FIVE Examples): There have been a number of times four storms (not all necessarily hurricanes) have been recorded simultaneously in the Atlantic Basin:

On September 2nd, 2008, a “tropical quartet” were all churning in different parts of the ocean or eastern U.S.: 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 as a hurricane, 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).

On September 23rd, 2004, storms with three of the four names of the aforementioned 1998 storms were also all seen churning in the Atlantic Basin: Ivan (in a bizarre resurrection the system which made landfall a week earlier as a Category 4 re-strengthened into a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico after remnants of the system looped all the way down from Delaware, Virginia and Maryland), Jeanne (meandering and doing loops of its own in the Atlantic as a hurricane before heading towards the Bahamas), Karl (a harmless but powerful Category 4 hurricane also out in the Atlantic Ocean) and Lisa (dipped to a tropical depression from a tropical storm, but would eventually strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane).
Another observation of four simultaneous storms happened from August 13th to August 14th in 2004: Tropical Storm Bonnie (racing up the east coast after landfall in Florida the day before), Hurricane Charlie (a powerful Category 4 storm making landfall first in Florida on the thirteenth, popping into the Atlantic and making a second landfall in South Carolina on the fourteenth), Hurricane Danielle (strengthening from Tropical Storm Danielle on the thirteenth to hurricane status by the fourteenth) and Tropical Storm Earl (similar to Danielle as it was strengthening: Earl started out as Tropical Depression Five on the thirteenth and became a tropical storm the next day).

On August 24th, 1999, the four simultaneous storms in the Atlantic were Hurricane Brett (made landfall in Texas the day before as a Category 3 hurricane), Tropical Storm Cindy (had gotten as high as a Category 4 storm, was diminished by wind shear, but would regain hurricane strength the next day), Tropical Storm Dennis (literally started the day as Tropical Depression Five and quickly strengthened; became a hurricane two days later) and Tropical Storm Emily (also formed on the same day as Dennis, Emily never got to hurricane strength and would be absorbed by Hurricane Cindy four days later).

Remember the record for most storms in the basin is five- just a few days before that record was set, four storms (three of them the same) were observed in the Atlantic Basin (August 23rd, 1995): the remnants of Hurricane Felix (at the time subtropical) were petering out in Canada while the aforementioned Humberto and Iris reached tropical storm status simultaneously. What would become Tropical Storm Jerry formed as Tropical Depression 11 off the coast of Florida…