PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — There are just 18 days left in the 2019 hurricane season and things have been pleasantly quiet across the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf basins as we approach the finish line.
Back in May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the 2019 hurricane season outlook which called for a “near-normal season” consisting of 9 to 15 named storms, where 4 to 8 of those storms could become hurricanes, and 2 to 4 of those hurricanes could be major storms (cat. 3 or above).
This season, the Atlantic basin saw 19 storms, 17 of which were named. While 11 of those were tropical storms, we saw our fair share of hurricanes, and even major hurricanes, across the tropics. Six of the named storms strengthened to hurricane strength, and three of those storms reached major hurricane status with winds greater than 111 mph. Two of the three major hurricanes reached Category 5 strength, with winds greater than 157 mph.
|Name (* denotes Major Hurricane)||Active Dates||Max Wind|
|Sub-Tropical Storm Andrea||May 20-21||40 mph|
|Hurricane Barry||July 11-15||75 mph|
|Tropical Depression Three||July 22-23||35 mph|
|Tropical Storm Chantal||August 21-23||40 mpn|
|Hurricane Dorian*||Aug. 24-Sept. 7||185 mph (cat 5)|
|Tropical Storm Erin||August 26-29||40 mph|
|Tropical Storm Fernand||September 3-4||50 mph|
|Tropicacl Storm Gabrielle||September 3-10||60 mph|
|Hurricane Humberto*||September 13-19||125 mph (cat 3)|
|Tropical Storm Imelda||September 17-19||40 mph|
|Hurricane Jerry||September 17-25||105 mph|
|Tropical Storm Karen||September 22-27||45 mph|
|Hurricane Lorenzo*||Sept. 22-Oct. 2||160 mph (cat 5)|
|Tropical Storm Melissa||October 11-14||65 mph|
|Tropical Depression Fifteen||October 14-16||35 mph|
|Tropical Storm Nestor||October 18-19||60 mph|
|Tropical Storm Olga||October 25||40 mph|
|Hurricane Pablo||October 25-28||80 mph|
|Sub Tropical Storm Rebekah||Oct. 30-Nov. 1||45 mph|
Only one storm made landfall along the Atlantic Seaboard (Dorian), with two storms moving through the eastern Caribbean Sea (Dorian and Karen), and three making landfall along the northern Gulf Coast (Barry, Imelda, and Nestor).
Subtropical Storm Andrea formed 10 days before the official start to the 2019 hurricane season, and it was very short-lived as it dissipated about a day later.
June was a very slow month weather-wise and even going into July, it took a little while for the tropics to heat up.
Barry was the first named storm the Panhandle kept their eyes on as it developed into a tropical storm near Apalachicola on July 10th, and became a hurricane on July 11th. This storm didn’t create too much of a problem as it traveled toward South Louisiana, except for at the beaches. Several days of high, rough surf eroded parts of the coastline which displaced sandbars and overwashed dozens of sea turtle nests stretching from Franklin to Walton Counties.
After Barry, it took more than a month to see another system form in the tropics. Tropical Storm Chantal became more organized in the north-central Atlantic, but it stayed there until it dissipated on August 23rd and caused no issues for anyone.
The next storm would not have the same reputation. Dorian formed on August 24th and was viewed as a storm that would have to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to survive in a very harsh environment. Throughout the course of nearly two weeks, Dorian beat all the odds and found a way to survive, eventually rapidly intensifying into one of the strongest hurricanes of all time.
Hurricane Dorian proved to be the most destructive hurricane of the 2019 season as it slowed to a halt over a portion of the Bahamas for nearly 48 hours. It lashed the island nation with winds greater than 180 mph, and left near-total destruction in its wake.
After Dorian moved up the eastern seaboard and made landfall along North Carolina’s outer banks, it dissipated on September 7 just before reaching New Foundland, Canada.
As we approached the peak of hurricane season on September 10, it was certainly a busy time. Tropical Storms Erin, Fernand, and Gabrielle formed leading up to the peak date, and then Humberto formed just after on September 13th.
Hurricane Humberto quickly intensified to a category 3 north of the Bahamas and it curved eastward out to sea, leaving little to no issue for the U.S. mainland. However, it passed just to the west of the island of Bermuda as a category 2 storm, which wreaked havoc on their coastline and ports.
Imelda was the next storm to target the northern Gulf Coast. It gained strength south of Houston and was upgraded to a Tropical Storm before it made landfall on September 17th as a very slow-moving storm that stalled out. Imelda caused devastating flooding along the I-10 corridor from Winnie eastward where they accumulated 30 to 44 inches of rainfall during the storm, with the greatest total of 44.29 inches recorded 2 miles south-southwest of Fannett, TX. Imelda climbed the ranks as the 7th wettest tropical cyclone to impact the United States, 5th wettest in the contiguous United States, and the 4th wettest in the state of Texas, rivaling Hurricane Harvey from 2017.
Hurricane Jerry, Tropical Storm Karen, and Hurricane Lorenzo stayed well away from the U.S. mainland as we closed out the month of September. Jerry briefly reached hurricane strength but was downgraded quick as it approached Bermuda. Tropical Storm Karen skirted the east coast of Puerto Rico as it moved northward and curved out to sea, and then we had Lorenzo form not far from the African coast.
Hurricane Lorenzo set a record as the strongest storm ever observed so far north and east in the Atlantic basin as it rapidly intensified to a Category 5 with winds of 160 mph. It weakened back down to a Category 2 as it moved northeast toward the Azores Islands where they expected nearly 70-foot seas to accompany the storm. Lorenzo then continued on to the northeast and approached Ireland and the United Kingdom before dying out around October 2nd.
October was not quite as busy as September in terms of tropical weather, mainly filled with weak tropical systems including Tropical Storm Melissa that formed off the east coast and continued out to sea.
However, Tropical Storm Nestor caught the eye of Northern Gulf Coast residents and tourists fairly early on. The storm was slow to form, but finally gained strength and tropical characteristics on October 18th and was upgraded to a tropical storm as it headed toward the Florida Panhandle.
Tropical Storm Nestor’s winds reached 60 mph at the peak of the storm, but it was downgraded to a Post-Tropical Cyclone with winds dying out as it made landfall on St. Vincent Island in Gulf County. The main impacts from the storm were rough surf and coastal erosion in Franklin County, along with a road washout on Alligator Point Road.
After Nestor dissipated, Tropical Storm Olga formed very briefly 6 days later on October 25th. Olga was a short-lived storm that formed in the western Gulf of Mexico and moved toward the Northern Gulf Coast before losing its tropical characteristics closer to the coast. Olga wasn’t much more than a rainmaker for the area, which helped the severe and extreme drought that crept into the panhandle throughout September and October.
As we ended October and began November, Hurricane Pablo and Sub-Tropical Storm Rebekah were the only tropical systems to watch and those were well removed from the Gulf of Mexico. Both of these storms formed closer to Africa than the U.S. and were no issue for us here in the Panhandle. Pablo dissipated on October 28th and Rebekah dissipated on November 1st.
It’s now 12 days later and we’re anticipating the tropics will remain quiet for the rest of the 2019 hurricane season.
While you can expect to see showers and maybe a thunderstorm on Thursday thanks to tropical moisture, there is no development expected as this moves northeast across the Gulf of Mexico. Once this area moves across Florida and emerges into the Atlantic there is evidence the low could gradually deepen off the Carolina’s, but it won’t be tropical in nature due to the cooler water temperatures.
In fact, water temperatures all across the tropical Atlantic are cooling down now that the sun has crossed into the southern hemisphere and we no longer have a high sun angle. Cold fronts are also working in our favor too. As they continue moving through the Florida Panhandle and into the Gulf of Mexico, the colder air helps cool the water temperature to below the threshold that these systems need to thrive.