|Mid-Atlantic Hurricanes: A Closer Examination
Welcome to Mid-Atlantic Hurricanes: A Closer Examination. This is a
periodic column based on the book Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic
States. It examines tropical cyclones from a historical perspective.
|To learn more, order Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States:
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|Where Have All The Hurricanes Gone?
|Hurricane Anniversaries in 2014
10th 2004 became the year of the hurricane related flood and related tornado
along much of the Eastern Seaboard. Florida became "Hurricane Central." Charlie,
Frances, Ivan, Jeanne and Gaston moved north-northeast like on a conveyor belt.
Ivan (Sept. 17-18 in Mid-Atlantic) brought the most widespread tornado outbreak
and most severe flooding. Hurricane Gaston on August 30 brought the Richmond,
Virginia, metropolitan area one of its worst flash flood events.
15th Flooding and Hurricane Floyd became synonymous on Sept. 16, 1999.
Many sections within 75 miles west of its track through eastern North Carolina,
Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey received more than 10 inches or
rain, with isolated totals near 20 inches. Waterways rose to historic levels. Floyd
caused immense environmental damage to many streams and rivers along its
path. A Category 2 hurricane at landfall in North Carolina, it maintained at least
minimal hurricane strength and an intact eye as far north as Ocean City, Maryland.
25th Hurricane Hugo smashed ashore near Charleston, South Carolina, on
Sept. 21-22,1989. Its maximum 135 mph sustained winds and immense storm
surge devastated the South Carolina coast. The rapidly moving storm carved a
destructive wind blown track well inland, tracking through South Carolina, North
Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Hurricane force gusts were
reported as far north as western Pennsylvania. Hugo is the last Category 4 level
hurricane to make landfall along the U.S. coast north of Florida.
35th Rarely do dying hurricanes produce as many tornadoes as Hurricane
David. It made landfall in Florida and then again near Savannah,Georgia, before
charging along an interior track up the East Coast. Epic flash flooding occurred
from the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., through the Baltimore
metropolitan area on Sept. 5-6, 1979. The storm spawned dozens of tornadoes,
including particularly destructive ones in southeastern Virginia and in Fairfax
County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.
45th Hurricane Camille slammed through the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Aug.
17, 1969, as a Category 5 hurricane. It reached Virginia as a downgraded tropical
depression on Aug. 19-20. Camille unexpectedly began to intensify as the storm
moved east through Virginia en route to the Atlantic Ocean. More than 27 inches
of rain fell in Nelson County, near Charlottesville, from about 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on
Aug. 19-20. Mud slides and flash flooding killed 151 people in the state, the Old
Dominion's deadliest natural disaster.
60th On Oct. 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel, of Category 4 intensity at landfall,
devastated the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York while
racing into Canada. Hours of hurricane force gusts blasted sections east of its
track along the entire route. Peak gusts at official weather stations included 108
mph in Suffolk, Va., and 112 mph at Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland. (The
60 years since Hurricane Hazel mark the longest interval between such 'inland
hurricanes' affecting Virginia and Maryland in at least the past 400 years.)
75th On Aug. 19-20, 1939, the remnants of a tropical storm dumped 14.81
inches of rain on Tuckerton, N.J. That remains the state's greatest 24 hour rainfall
total at an official weather station.
Hurricane Ivan during September 2004 brought a tornado outbreak to the
Mid-Atlantic region. A house in Remington, Virginia., and outbuildings from a
farm north of Brunswick, Maryland, were among many destroyed buildings.
(Photographs by Rick Schwartz)
Weather extremes often beget opposite extremes across geography and time.
While record-setting typhoons have battered the western Pacific Ocean during 2013
and 2014, and extremely powerful hurricanes have roamed the eastern Pacific, there's
been little hurricane activity along the East Coast of the United States. In fact, there
hasn't been a major Category 3 or higher landfall anywhere in the continental U.S.
since 2004 and only one Category 3 along the East Coast in this century.*
Since 2005, there have well over 100 named tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic
basin. Although climatologists claim that an "active cycle" began in 1995, it has been
anything but for most of the East Coast since 2005. Consider the following:
If a hurricane doesn't make landfall in Florida this year, the period since the last in
2005 is the longest without a hurricane striking the state since the National Weather
Service began in 1870. The previous longest interval was six years.
The only hurricanes to make landfall along the East Coast north of Florida in this
century have been Isabel (2003), Gaston (2004), Irene (2011), Sandy (2012) and
Arthur (2014). None was stronger than a Category 2.
The last Category 4 hurricane to make landfall along the East Coast (Hugo) occurred
The last Category 5 hurricane to make landfall along the East Coast (Andrew)
occurred in 1992.
2004 is the only year in this century with multiple hurricane landfalls along the East
Coast. That year three struck, with two in Florida and one in North Carolina.
Despite a seasonal record 28 North Atlantic tropical cyclones in 2005, only Katrina, a
Category 1 at landfall in Florida, targeted the East Coast.
New Jersey is the state with the most hurricane landfalls along the Eastern Seaboard
since 2005. Irene and Sandy were Category 1 storms that battered shore areas.
The last hurricane to make landfall on Long Island was Gloria in 1985.
New England hasn't been directly slammed by a hurricane since Bob in 1991.
No hurricanes have made landfall in Georgia or South Carolina in this century.
North Carolina had four hurricane landfalls from 1996 to 1999, all Category 2 level
storms or stronger. Since then, only three storms have come ashore, two minimal
Category 1 hurricanes and a low end Category 2.
Dr. Bill Gray, a noted climatologist who has devoted many years to the study of
tropical cyclone patterns, described the paltry activity as a "miracle". For various
reasons, storms have stayed away or weakened upon approach. Someday, of course,
this will change. However, the science of long range hurricane prediction isn't able to
tell us when. So, as the hurricane season ends, the question is how long can the East
Coast continue to beat the odds?
* The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale includes Category 1 (74-95 mph), Category 2 (96-110 mph),
Category 3 (111-130 mph), Category 4 (131-155 mph) and Category 5 (155 mph or greater). Category
3 and stronger hurricanes are considered "major".