At­lantic hur­ri­cane sea­son is fi­nally over

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By Brian McNoldy, Phil Klotzbach and Ja­son Sa­menow

The hor­ri­ble hur­ri­cane sea­son that we des­per­ately wanted to end in Au­gust and then Septem­ber, but which cal­lously re­fused, is fi­nally over. It ranks as the most de­struc­tive and among the busiest on record. Three storms in par­tic­u­lar, Har­vey, Irma and Maria, did the lion’s share of the dam­age, un­leash­ing a full-on as­sault on so­many vul­ner­a­ble shores - many of which are still re­cov­er­ing.

In all, 17 named storms raked across the At­lantic Ocean basin. Ten be­came hur­ri­canes, six of them ma­jor, rat­ing Cat­e­gory 3 or higher on the Saf­fir- Simpson scale. The busiest and most painful part of the sea­son was from late Au­gust to early Oc­to­ber, when 10 hur­ri­canes ex­ploded over the ab­nor­mally warm trop­i­cal wa­ters in 10 weeks.

Septem­ber marked the brunt of the stretch, set­ting a monthly record for ac­cu­mu­lated cy­clone en­ergy or ACE, a mea­sure of storm power and longevity. On Sept. 8, more ACE was gen­er­ated than any other day in recorded his­tory, dat­ing to 1851. That day, Irma was a Cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane, Jose was a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane, and Ka­tia a Cat­e­gory 2 hur­ri­cane. Maria would form just a cou­ple of weeks later.

This sea­son as a whole racked up the sev­enth-most ACE on record, join­ing the ranks of truly no­table and mem­o­rable sea­sons such as 1933, 2005, 1893, 1926, 1995, 2004, 1950, 1961 and 1998.

The storms that formed this sea­son were a mag­net for land masses. Of the 17 named storms that formed, only six did not hit land. Few ar­eas along the U. S. Gulf and South­east coasts as well as the Caribbean were spared from at least in­di­rect ef­fects.

The sea­son’s most no­to­ri­ous hur­ri­canes — Har­vey, Irma and Maria— were also among the most in­tense, their peak winds reach­ing 130 mph, 185 mph and 175 mph, re­spec­tively. All­made land­fall at or very close to their peak in­ten­si­ties. This was the first year on record that the con­ti­nen­tal United States ex­pe­ri­enced two Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane land­falls: Har­vey and Irma.

Har­vey will be most re­mem­bered for its un­prece­dented 60 inches of rain in South­east Texas, the most of any storm recorded in U. S. his­tory, and the cat­a­strophic flood­ing that re­sulted. The storm dropped the equiv­a­lent of 33 tril­lion gal­lons of wa­ter on the United States.

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