Hel­lish Septem­ber for hur­ri­canes fi­nally comes to a close

Records fall, even with a quar­ter of storm sea­son to come

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Doyle Rice

Farewell, Septem­ber. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

By some mea­sure­ments, Septem­ber marked the sin­gle worst month for At­lantic hur­ri­canes ever recorded.

In a statis­tic known as Ac­cu­mu­lated Cy­clone En­ergy (ACE), Hur­ri­canes Irma, Ka­tia, Jose, Lee and Maria gen­er­ated the largest amount of en­ergy for any month on record, said Colorado State Univer­sity me­te­o­rol­o­gist Phil Klotzbach.

ACE is cal­cu­lated by adding each trop­i­cal storm or hur­ri­cane’s wind speed through its life cy­cle. Longlived, in­tense hur­ri­canes have a high count (Irma’s ACE mea­sured 67.5), while short-lived, weak trop­i­cal storms have a lower val­ues (Ka­tia came in at 6.1), ac­cord­ing to Weather.com.

Irma and Maria soared to Cat­e­gory 5 strength, the top of the Saf­fir-Simp­son scale of hur­ri­cane in­ten­sity. Irma’s land­fall on Bar­buda and Maria’s land­fall on Do­minica makes 2017 only the sec­ond sea­son on record to fea­ture two hur­ri­canes of Cat­e­gory 5 strength.

The At­lantic Basin, which in­cludes the Gulf of Mex­ico and the Caribbean Sea, also gen­er­ated 35 “hur­ri­cane days” in Septem­ber, the most ever recorded in the At­lantic, Klotzbach said.

A “hur­ri­cane day” is tal­lied each time a hur­ri­cane spins for 24 hours some­where in the At­lantic, mean­ing there can be mul­ti­ple “hur­ri­cane days” in a sin­gle 24-hour pe­riod.

These sta­tis­tics don’t nec­es­sar­ily gauge a hur­ri­cane sea­son’s im­pact on peo­ple and prop­erty, how­ever.

Irma killed 87 peo­ple in the U.S. and its ter­ri­to­ries; the U.S. death toll from Maria now stands at 24, all in Puerto Rico.

Septem­ber wrought cat­a­strophic dam­age to the south­east­ern U.S. and Puerto Rico, in ad­di­tion to sev­eral other Caribbean is­lands, pri­mar­ily be­cause of Irma and Maria. When the de­struc­tion from Har­vey in Au­gust is lumped in, this year’s crop of dev­as­tat­ing storms could make it the costli­est hur­ri­cane sea­son ever for the USA.

“There is no ques­tion that this is al­ready go­ing to be one of the costli­est At­lantic hur­ri­cane sea­sons on record — and we’re only in Septem­ber,” said me­te­o­rol­o­gist Steve Bowen of global rein­sur­ance firm Aon Ben­field.

Hur­ri­cane sea­son isn’t over, un­for­tu­nately. Based on his­tor­i­cal av­er­ages, we still have about 25% of the sea­son left. On av­er­age, 1.5 hur­ri­canes form each year in the At­lantic in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber, the NOAA said.

As Maria and Lee race out to sea away from the United States, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter is watch­ing a small area of dis­turbed weather spin­ning near Cuba. The dis­tur­bance has a 40% chance of be­com­ing a named storm over the next five days.

In Oc­to­ber, fore­cast­ers usu­ally look closer to home in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mex­ico or At­lantic Ocean for de­vel­op­ing storms and hur­ri­canes. The long-lived hur­ri­canes that form near Africa and move slowly across the ocean, like Irma and Maria, are not as com­mon this time of year.

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