TROPICAL UPDATE BLOG - WEDNESDAY 11.30.16
The most active hurricane season in six years came to a close Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, ending with 15 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
While an average year has 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes, the 2016 season was not only memorable, but long and complex.
Hurricane Alex formed just a few weeks after New Year's and was only the second hurricane on record to form in the Atlantic Ocean during the month of January. It eventually made landfall in the Azores before losing tropical characteristics.
Four months later, over the Memorial Day weekend, Bonnie became the second named storm of the season and the first of 5 tropical systems (Bonnie, Colin, Julia, Hermine & Matthew) to have an impact on the South Carolina coast.
Hurricane Matthew was the season's headliner. It was the first category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin since Felix in 2007.
Matthew made landfall in western Haiti as a category 4 hurricane on Oct. 4. By the time it made landfall in McClellanville, S.C., on Oct. 8, it was a category 1 hurricane.
After being saturated by excessive rain from previous tropical systems, Matthew's 10-15" of rain caused catastrophic flooding in Marion and Robeson counties.
A few days later, massive, historic flooding took place along the Little Pee Dee River, Waccamaw River and the Intracoastal Waterway.
The wind on the backside of Matthew was strong. Winds officially gusted to 75 mph in Myrtle Beach and 74 mph in Georgetown. Many areas away from the coast had gusts between 60 and 70 mph.
Winds of this magnitude over such a large area had not been measured along the coast since hurricane Floyd in 1999 and inland since hurricane Hugo in 1989. Because of how saturated the grounds were from a very wet summer and Matthew, thousands of trees came down.
The season also went out with a bang.
Hurricane Otto was a category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 mph when it made landfall in southern Nicaragua on Thanksgiving Day. No other hurricane on record has made landfall so late in the season. It was also the first storm to cross from the Atlantic into the Pacific as a tropical cyclone since 1996.
Here are some other interesting facts about the 2016 hurricane season:
No major hurricanes made landfall in the United States, although Matthew came within 50 miles of the Florida coast. The U.S. has now gone 11 years without a major hurricane landfall. Wilma was the last in 2005. Since records began in 1851, we've never had such a long period without a major hurricane landfall.
Category 1 hurricane Hermine became the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005.
Twelve of the 15 named storms (80 percent) affected land in some way. In fact, 5 of the 15 named storms (33 percent) directly impacted the South Carolina Coast.
Three major hurricanes formed in 2016 (Gaston, Matthew & Nicole). This is the first year with at least three major hurricane since 2011.
But, why was activity above average?
Despite substantial dry air prevailing across much of the tropical Atlantic ocean, the wind shear was below normal and the water temperatures above normal. These factors combined to make it easier for tropical systems to form.