In wake of catastrophic storms, is the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season more active than normal?

By Emma Curtis , AccuWeather staff writer
September 27, 2017, 10:56:57 AM EDT

On average, 12 tropical storms form in the Atlantic during hurricane season each year. This year has seen 13 tropical storms – just one more than the average.

If, statistically, this season has only been slightly more active than average, why is it that this season has garnered more attention than any season in the past decade?

“The intensity of some of these storms has been dramatic, and they’ve hit the United States,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck.

Of the 13 named tropical storms that were named this year, eight were hurricanes and of those, four were major hurricanes. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has quickly become one of the most active seasons in the last decade.

“We’ve been overdue for the last several years to get a major hurricane hit the United States,” Smerbeck said.

A satellite image of Hurricane Maria making landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017. (Satellite Image/NASA Earth Observatory)

Every hurricane season has its unique aspects, explained AccuWeather’s Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

Two Category 4 hurricanes made landfall and caused major damage in the United States in just two weeks.

“It’s kind of unusual to see both Texas and Florida be hit by two different, monster hurricanes in the same year,” said Kottlowski.

Of the five major hurricanes (Category 3 hurricanes or stronger), three of them made landfall in the mainland U.S. or Puerto Rico. Harvey flooded parts of Houston and southeastern Texas; Irma left 6.2 million Floridians without power; Maria destroyed Puerto Rico and left the U.S. island territory completely without power.

This is proving to be one of the most expensive, if not the costliest, hurricane season in recorded history although it has been far less deadly than one could assume considering the damage.

Hurricane Irma maintained winds of 185 mph longer than any other hurricane or typhoon in history before hitting South Florida. More than 7 million people were evacuated in the largest evacuation in U.S. history.

A customer pumps gas at a Costco gas station on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in North Miami, Florida. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The integration of social media and mainstream media has played a critical role in the well-being of those affected by these horrific storms.

“We were getting videos, almost live videos, from people that were experiencing these horrible hurricanes,” said Kottlowski. “We’ve never seen so much of that information. I think part of the issue is the fact that we can see what’s going on better now than we ever have before.”

For almost a decade, hurricane seasons have been rather quiet and inactive compared to the norm. Only nine major hurricanes have formed since the start of the 2012 hurricane season.

“When a period gets really inactive like we went through over the past 10 years or so, it was almost like that was the abnormality,” Kottlowski said.

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This season has been, without a doubt, one of the most active and dangerous hurricane seasons in recent history and, climatologically, there is more than two months until the season is over on Nov. 30.

“I think we will have four more named storms this year, after Maria,” Kottlowski said. “Of these, three may be hurricanes and one may be a major hurricane.”

Since Kottlowski’s statement, Lee strengthened into a major hurricane on Wednesday morning, Sept. 27.

Storms could continue to form through October and may include another landfall in the United States.


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