Unlike many heatwave haters, August is one of my favorite months. School is starting to ramp up (for those of us in the South), football pre-season is upon us, and most importantly, my birthday is in two weeks. For others, it can be the worst time of year, with uncomfortable heat and humidity scorching much of the country, and the Gulf of Mexico becoming a tub of warm water, creating a perfect environment for the development of a major storm. However, like many of you, I’ve been scratching my head asking, where is the storm?
Since hurricane season officially began on the first of June, it has been rather quiet. Of course, we’ve seen four tropical storms so far, but nothing to turn heads. This could mean a sign of relief, right? Wrong. According to the National Hurricane Center, most hurricanes form after Aug. 10. This got me thinking about the dates of some of the worst hurricanes in our recent history. Is August as busy a month as meteorologists claim it is?
Half of the top 10 costliest storms in the United States’ history developed this month, including Hurricane Charley, which made landfall today in 2004, near Charlotte County, Florida. A Category 4 storm, Hurricane Charley snagged the eighth spot on the United States’ costliest storms list even though it was one of the smallest storms (area-wise) on record.
To answer my question, the storm(s) are coming. Based on the list below of some of the most destructive hurricanes in recent U.S. history that developed in August, we’re in for a wet and wild couple of months:
- Hurricane Katrina (2005) – Hurricane Katrina first made U.S. landfall on Aug. 25, in South Florida, but it was the storm’s damaging and destructive effects to New Orleans that made headlines. Even though the mayor called for a first-ever mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, the death toll was still nearly 1,800. Today, the storm is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, and one of the top five deadliest hurricanes.
Hurricane Andrew (1992) – According to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, the 1992 hurricane season was supposed to be a “breeze.” However, it was far from that when the first Atlantic hurricane that year became the costliest storm on record at that time. It made landfall on Aug. 24, and caused approximately $26.5 billion in damage.
- Hurricane Irene (2011) – Number seven on the costliest storms list, Hurricane Irene battered the East Cost when it made landfall on Aug. 27, in North Carolina, and then moved up to New Jersey and New York City. An ominous foreshadowing of what was to come a year later with Hurricane Sandy, Irene was a Category 3 storm that cost approximately $16.6 billion in damages.
- Hurricane Frances (2004) – Hurricane Frances developed on Aug. 25, and promised to deliver a second powerful punch to Florida following Hurricane Charley, which caused major damage to the area only a few days earlier. By the time it fizzled out, Hurricane Frances cost the U.S. approximately $12 billion.
ImpactWeather meteorologists and staff are acutely aware that we’re only halfway through hurricane season. Perhaps the chatter around your office isn’t dominated by the question of when, like it is here (we do pretty much live and breathe the weather forecast in this building), but as we experience the calm before the storm, now is the time to prepare your disaster plan if you have not already done so. To learn more about hurricane and natural disaster preparation, visit www.ready.gov.