Calm Before The Storm: The Coming Winds
The Major Hurricane Drought
There has been an eerie silence upon the coasts of America, this silence comes in the form of a record setting drought spanning over a decade in which no major hurricane, category 3 or higher, has struck the continental United States.
The last major hurricane to make landfall was Hurricane Wilma on Oct. 24th, 2005 which struck Florida with winds of 120 mph. If you're thinking of Super-storm Sandy, well that post tropical system made landfall with 80 mph winds, the equivalent of a category 1 hurricane and even though it caused substantial damage and flooding it was far weaker than a major hurricane.
Another monster storm was Hurricane Ike in 2008 which attained a category 4 status at its peak but weakened before making landfall as a category 2 with sustained winds of 110 mph. Our lucky streak continues on but eventually our luck will run out.
According to the NOAA historical records the second longest stretch of time between impacts of a major hurricane was the former record of 8 years from 1861 to 1868, a record that we have now broken. While all hurricanes can be deadly and damaging the destruction unleashed by a major hurricane is all to real. Combined with ever rising sea levels each subsequent hurricane poses a greater flood-risk. The most important thing to take from this is that proper preparing is important, it can save lives and reduce damage.
Storm At Sea
Cities Overdue for a Major Hurricane
In addition to the major hurricane drought there are many cities and areas that are long overdue for a major hurricane. The last major hurricane to strike the Tampa Bay Area was in October 1921, a span of 95 years yet a major hurricane strikes the area every 25 to 30 years, giving the area an 11% probability each year of being struck by a hurricane. In any given year Tampa Bay has a 1-in-80 chance of having a 100 year storm. This puts Tampa Bay at least 65 years overdue, a stretch of time that undoubtedly will end disastrously.
Baltimore, Maryland has not had a severe hurricane impact since 1878 a length of time which becomes even more alarming when you consider that Baltimore should see a hurricane on average every 15 years making it over 123 years past due.
New Orleans, Louisiana and the surrounding area has an 11% probability each year of a hurricane making landfall with one striking on average every 7 to 11 years. The risk of flooding and storm surge is exacerbated by the fact that not only is New Orleans on average 6 feet below sea level but the city, which is built on marshland, is sinking by as much as 2 inches a year. When the rate of subsidence is combined with the continuous rise in sea-level the potential for catastrophic flooding become even more probable.
Miami, Florida is particularly vulnerable, the city has an historical average of a hurricane making landfall within 50 miles every six to eight years with the last major hurricane, Hurricane Andrew, striking in 1992, some 24 years ago. In any given year there is a 16% probability that Miami will experience a hurricane, there is also a 1-in-125 chance each year that Miami will suffer from a 100 year storm. Another troublesome fact is that Andrew only delivered a glancing blow to Miami, that last direct hit on Miami from a major hurricane was about 90 years ago. The hurricane of 1926 which struck Miami directly remains the costliest storm in history when adjusted for inflation, a staggering $164.8 billion. When this storm hit the population of Miami was only 100,000, now over 5.5 million people live in the area.
Destroyed Fishing Pier
160 Years Without a Major Hurricane
An amazing but potentially alarming fact is that Honolulu has not had a major hurricane make landfall in recorded history. There are many other cities and areas that are long overdue for a major hurricane, of notable mention these include;
Ocean City, Maryland and Norfolk, Virginia both of which haven't seen a major hurricane in more than 160 years. The last time Virginia Beach, Virginia suffered a direct hit from a major hurricane was in 1821. Norfolk has both major commercial ports and the worlds largest navel base both of which could suffer serious damage in a major hurricane.
New York City has not had a direct impact from a major hurricane in 123 years, even Superstorm Sandy had weakened before impacting. New York City has a 1-in-200 chance of suffering from a 100 year storm every given year.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida was last stuck by a major hurricane in 1950 which was Hurricane King. Fort Lauderdale is either brushed or hit on average every 2.25 years and suffers a direct landfall on average every 5.76 years.
Sarasota, Florida is 46 years past the average return cycle of hurricanes for the area.
Houston, Texas last saw a major hurricane in 1983 which was Hurricane Alicia, over 30 years ago.
The last hurricane to strike Brunswick, Georgia was the Okeechobee hurricane in 1928 which produced a record low pressure of 976 millibars.
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina has a 15% chance in any given year of being hit by a hurricane. In fact Cape Hatteras is brushed by a hurricane on average every 1.37 years and suffers a direct hit on average every 4.11 years. Statistically Cape Hatteras should be affected by a hurricane sometime in 2016.
Daytona Beach, Florida and Naples, Florida last experienced a direct hit in 1960 from Hurricane Donna.
Key West, Florida has a 16% chance, just like Miami, in any given year to be hit by a hurricane and experiences a storm on average every 5.96 years. During Hurricane Wilma in 2004 as much as 70% of the island of Key West was underwater.
Some of the cities that have gone for as much as 90 years or more without being hit by a major hurricane include Jacksonville, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Portland, Maine; and Boston, Massachusetts.
Damage Caused by Hurricane Katrina
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
Type of Damage
157 mph or higher
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States at Risk of a Major Hurricane
Which state do you feel is most at risk to a major hurricane?
© 2016 Lloyd Busch