The Atlantic Hurricane Season came to end on November 30th. This season was slightly above-average. From Alberto to Oscar, there were 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes of which two were “major” (Category 3, 4 or 5). An average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Atlantic hurricane season got off to an early start, earlier than the official start of the season. (Hurricane season begins on June 1st.) Tropical Storm Alberto formed on May 25th. Alberto made landfall in northern Florida, tracking through western Kentucky, on it’s way to the Great Lakes. Heavy rain from the remnants of the Alberto contributed to Lexington’s historical May rainfall.
This season will be most remembered for hurricanes Florence and Michael, which caused significant damage across the southeastern U.S. Hurricane Florence had quite the journey. Over the open Atlantic, wind shear seemed to ripped the storm apart. Changing steering currents led to storm to a more suitable environment for intensification. Florence rapidly became a Category 4 hurricane with a peak intensity of 140 mph winds and a minimum central pressure of 939 millibars. The storm went through an eyewall replacement cycle as it tracked through the Gulf Stream and weakened. Early on September 14, Florence made landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane. The coastal Carolina received several feet of rain. This was the wettest tropical cyclone recorded in the Carolinas.
Michael was the strongest storm of the season. It formed in early October over the southwestern Caribbean Sea. Five days later the storm become a major hurricane with 120 mph winds. On October 10, Michael made landfall in Mexico Beach, Florida, near Tyndall Air Force Base as a strong Category 4. This was the strongest hurricane to make landfall along the Florida panhandle. Michael also became the third most intense hurricane at landfall in the U.S. with a minimum pressure of 919 millibars, and the 4th strongest based on wind (155 mph).
Warmer Atlantic sea surface temperatures, strong western Africa monsoon, and the fact that El Nino didn’t form helped to enhance the development of tropical cyclones, especially late in the season.