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Atlantic Hurricane Season Is Over

December 1, 2012

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Andrew Rosenthal


The 2012 Atlantic Basin hurricane season is officially in the book with an above-average total of 19 named storms and ten hurricanes.

By far, the most notable storm was October`s Hurricane Sandy, while numerous other storms made their mark this year. While November 30 marks the "official" conclusion of the season, residents along the East Coast and Gulf Coast are reminded that tropical storms do form outside of the traditional June to November timeline.

This year, in fact, started out with two such storms forming in May, the first time this has occurred in 104 years. One of these systems, Tropical Storm Beryl, marked the first of many U.S. landfalls for tropical storms and hurricanes. Beryl formed into a subtropical storm off the South Carolina coast on May 26, before spinning westward as a tropical storm and making landfall early on the morning of May 28 near Jacksonville Beach, Fla. While the storm brought flooding, with nearly 15 inches of rain falling in Wellborn, Fla., it went a long way toward alleviating an ongoing drought.

The season`s record pace continued into June, with the season`s first hurricane - - Chris - - and the earliest-recorded "D"-named storm, Debby, although the quick start tapered off with a silent July. As the calendar switched to August, the tropics heated up. The year`s eighth month brought eight named storms and five hurricanes, both records.

August also brought Hurricane Isaac. While "only" a Category 1 hurricane at its peak, Isaac produced plenty of Gulf Coast trouble. The storm, which formed in the northern Caribbean on August 23, spun first toward the Florida Keys while threatening the Florida Gulf Coast, including Tampa, just as the Republican National Convention began, causing the event to be shortened by one day. However, a turn in the storm`s path directed it not toward Florida, but instead Louisiana.

Isaac made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on August 28 as a Category 1 hurricane, but strong winds and heavy rain slammed much of the central Gulf Coast. Rainfall totals of 26.71 inches were recorded in Pascagoula, Miss., and 67 mph sustained winds plowed across Grande Isle, La. While the storm fell apart as it moved through the Mississippi Valley, its remnants continued to bring heavy rain from the Gulf Coast to Ohio through September 1. In the end, more than 900,000 people lost power from Louisiana to Florida, with damage estimated at $2 billion.

September and early October brought the most statistically notable storms, with the season`s only major hurricane, Michael, which reached Category 3 strength on September 5. Despite this strength, Michael remained in the open Atlantic, threatening no landmass. Following in its footsteps was the season`s longest-lived named storm. Hurricane Nadine lasted 23 days as it made several loops around the east-central Atlantic, making it the fifth-longest lived storm on record. Twice during its trek, Nadine threatened the Azores, bringing dangerous rip currents to the islands and, at one point, gusts of 66 mph to Lajes.

The 2012 season, however, will be most remembered for one storm: Hurricane Sandy, which devastated New York City and New Jersey areas with massive storm surges. Sandy formed unassumingly enough in the Caribbean on October 22, but quickly grew into a hurricane as it tracked toward Cuba and Jamaica. The storm caused significant damage as it slammed the Caribbean islands as a Category 2 storm on October 25, with widespread flooding in Haiti and the Dominican Republic killing 106.

After crossing Cuba, Hurricane Sandy started to interact with an approaching cold front, sending it on a path into the history books. The storm expanded into a behemoth, with tropical storm force winds increasing to a diameter in excess of 1,100 miles, as it passed through the Bahamas. Although Sandy tracked off the Carolina coast, it was thrust to the northwest - - unusual for a storm - - by high pressure blocking its path in the Canadian Maritimes. This set the stage for its final landfall, just south of Atlantic City, N.J., on October 29, with winds of 90 mph. The storm would slowly weaken after that, but the damage caused by the storm was done.

The devastation was greatest across southeastern New York and New Jersey. The WeatherBug Live Tracking network recorded gusts as high as 91 mph in Islip, N.Y., and storm surges of 14 feet were reported in New York Harbor and Long Island Sound. The high surge swept into lower Manhattan, Staten Island, and southern Queens, flooding the subway system and causing widespread damage across the region. The surge also ripped into the New Jersey shoreline, destroying a segment of the famed Atlantic City boardwalk. Several other tourist locations along the Jersey Shore, including Seaside Heights and Long Beach Island, saw their oceanfront amusement parks collapse into the Atlantic.

Heavy rain and even blizzard conditions also marked Hurricane Sandy`s visit to the East Coast. Rainfall totals of 12.83 inches were recorded at Bellevue, Md., with widespread totals of 8 to 10 inches from central Maryland to southern New Jersey. Further to the west, it was snow that pummeled the Appalachians. Clayton, W.Va., led the way with 33 inches of wet snow, while a wide swath from North Carolina to Maryland received in excess of a foot of the white stuff.

The overall impact of Sandy was probably the biggest ever seen in a tropical system along the East Coast. At its peak, nearly 8 million people were without power from New England to Ohio to the Mid-Atlantic, with some people waiting two weeks or more to see their power fully restored. At least 131 fatalities were reported in the U.S. as a result of Sandy, including more than 50 in New York City. Although the numbers are still being tallied, damage is estimated as high at $63 billion, making it the second-costliest hurricane on record, following Hurricane Katrina.

While Sandy was churning toward the East Coast, one more tropical storm, Tony, formed and dissipated in the open Atlantic. This meant that the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season was the third straight year in which 19 or more named storms formed, the first time on record that this has occurred. Statistically, the 19 named storms produced ten hurricanes, but only one of these storms reached major hurricane status.

Keep checking your WeatherBug for the latest on the tropics, and be sure to keep WeatherBug active to receive the latest weather in your neighborhood and get the latest updates anywhere on Twitter.


Story Image: A satellite image of Hurricane Sandy on October 29 as it spun toward the New Jersey coast. (NOAA)

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