Storm exhaustion arrives
At the beginning of the year, the storm gurus said they were more confident than usual that this hurricane season would be busier than usual. They didn’t know how right they would be.
The respected Colorado State University storm team predicted 16 named storms, eight of them hurricanes, and four of those major storms. AccuWeather foresaw 14 to 20 named storms, seven to 11 of them becoming hurricanes, and four to six of them growing into large storms. Weather Channel analysts expected 16 to 18 named storms, eight or nine of them hurricanes.
Those predictions were well above the 100-year average of a dozen named tropical storms or hurricanes in a year, but still weren’t high enough. We’ve doubled that average this year.
With a few weeks still left in this incredible season, we have seen 25 named storms, nine of them hurricanes, three of those reaching Category 3 or higher. That makes this the second most active season on record, behind only 2005, another year we will not forget.
When Delta made landfall near Creole in Cameron Parish on the evening of Friday, Oct. 9, it was the tenth named storm (including tropical storms) to hit the U.S. in 2020, beating the record of nine set in 1916. It was the fifth storm to come ashore in the U.S. as a hurricane. The record is six strikes by hurricane strength storms in a season, which happened most recently in 1985.
More importantly to us, Delta was the fourth named storm to strike Louisiana this year, along with tropical storms Cristobal and Marco, and hurricane Laura. That ties the record for most Louisiana landfalls in one year, set in 2002 when tropical storms Bertha, Hanna, and Isidore, and hurricane Lili all made landfall in the state.
Beginning with Cristobal, 22 of this year’s 25 storms were the earliest ever of their place in the alphabet, and this was only one of two years when we ran through the prepared list of storm names (it stops at W) and had to use the Greek alphabet to name the last of them.
Delta came ashore just 12 miles east of where Category 4 Laura hit on August 27. Its 100 mph winds knocked out power to more than 750,000 customers in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.
The highest gusts in Louisiana were measured at Lake Arthur, which recorded sustained winds of 77 mph, gusting to 96. The Lake Charles Regional Airport saw 94 mph gusts; New Iberia and Port Arthur got 90 mph; Cameron, 89 mph; Jennings, 81 mph; Lacassine, Lafayette, and Opelousas, 75.
Delta was also remarkable as the fifth 2020 hurricane to intensify by at least 35 mph in 24 hours, increasing by 80 mph on October 5-6. Hurricane Hanna jumped 35 mph in 24 hours on July 24–25; Sally grew by 40 mph September 14–15; Teddy increased by 45 mph September 17–18, and Laura jumped by 65 mph in 24 hours on August 26–27.
Most of the time, records are something to be proud of, but these will be remembered instead as marks of seldom seen destruction, suffering, and hardship. Pray that we are spared more records like them this year, or ever.
A collection of Jim Bradshaw’s columns, Cajuns and Other Characters, is now available from Pelican Publishing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.