The Peak of Hurricane Season Has Arrived

Today, September 10th, marks the climatological peak of hurricane season. The waters are nice and warm with lots of tropical waves traveling off the coast of Africa. It is this time of year that people tend to think of when they hear the word “hurricane,” with the African Easterly Waves developing into classic Cape Verde-type hurricanes. It is not surprising that during the peak of hurricane season we have 2 named storms (Tropical Storm Leslie and Hurricane Michael) with a third system likely to form soon. In case you were wondering, it would be called Nadine if it reaches tropical storm strength.

With that in mind, let’s look at the season so far. We have had 13 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 1 major hurricane. We had an early start to the season with 2 named storms before the official June 1st start. Tropical Storm Beryl, who made landfall in Jacksonville Beach, Florida made history as the strongest May storm on record with maximum sustained wind speeds of 70 mph (just below the 74 mph hurricane cut off) before landfall. A few weeks later there was Tropical Storm Debby who dumped large amounts of rain across Florida, especially on the west coast. Miami hasn’t been directly effected yet, but did get rainbands and weak tropical storm force winds as then Tropical Storm Isaac passed just below the Keys. Hurricane Isaac later went on to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico and sat on top of Louisana, unleashing rain and winds for what seemed like forever. The major impact with Isaac was the flooding, as natural levees were topped and the Mississippi River overflowed into the surrounding areas. Ironically, this occurred around the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and although New Orleans was fine this time, others were not so lucky. The first major hurricane was Hurricane Michael in the Atlantic which was a Category 3 for 6 hours.

Rain and flooding have been the main story so far this season, but there is still the second half to go. Let’s see what the rest of the season has to bring, and keep our fingers crossed. Hurricane season officially ends on November 30th.

Angela Colbert
Meteorology & Physical Oceanography
Graduate Student
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Tropical Storm Debby: Expect More Rain

Tropical Storm Debby formed on June 23rd, making it the earliest date in the Atlantic for the 4th named storm, breaking the previous record set by Dennis on July 5th during the infamous 2005 season. It was slow to get organized and was an area of interest since about June 18 in the western Caribbean Sea, before drifting across the Yucatan Pensinsula, and finally reaching tropical storm status in the central Gulf of Mexico. Since then, its motion has been slow and unpredictable owing to weak steering currents, and is now located just 80 miles from the northwest Florida coast.

Tropical Storm Debby remains disorganized with very little deep convection near the center, but as history has taught us, even a weak tropical storm is capable of being destructive.

By far, the biggest issue associated with Debby is the rainfall, as expected. Parts of the Florida panhandle have received nearly 25″ of rain in the past few days (much of that came in the past day), but the bulk of Florida has been hit with 6″ or more. To add to that, an additional 3-6″ is expected over northeastern Florida in the coming few days.

As of 8am EDT today, Tropical Storm Debby has peak sustained winds of 40kts and a 991mb central pressure. It’s centered about 85 miles west of Cedar Key, FL and drifting east at 3kts. It is expected to come ashore on Wednesday morning between Apalachicola and Tampa as a tropical storm.

Tropical Storm Debby’s pre-storm path is indicated in dashes, while the forecast path is dotted.

Again, the biggest threat will be additional heavy rain, and the exact timing and location of landfall makes little difference. As far as storm surge goes, some areas in western Florida could see up to 6′ above normal tidal levels, particularly in Waccasassa Bay, Withlacoochee Bay, Crystal Bay, and Homosassa Bay. You can find additional details and maps of storm surge products at the National Hurricane Center website.

Have questions about Tropical Storm Debby or other Hurricane related topics? Leave them in the comments section below.

Brian McNoldy
Senior Research Associate
& Author of Tropical Atlantic Update
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