Hurricane Season over: Your questions answered - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Hurricane Season over: Your questions answered

Tybee Island (Source: WTOC) Tybee Island (Source: WTOC)

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season was the busiest and most destructive since 2005.

The first tropical system was named on April 19th. Tropical Storm Arlene remained relatively weak and out to sea with no direct impacts to any land mass. Tropical Storm Bret was the first system to be named within the “hurricane season”; June 1st through November 30th.

The first several tropical systems remained relatively weak. Tropical Storms Cindy and Emily dumped heavy rain along portions of the Gulf Coast and Florida; producing inland flooding and minor storm surge.

The most destructive tropical systems - Major Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria - impacted the continental United States and the Caribbean between August 17th and September 20th. For a period of several days, Hurricane Katie and Major Hurricanes Irma and Jose were occurring simultaneously.

Locally, Major Hurricane Irma prompted evacuations and damaged property. Irma’s storm tide, the combination of storm surge and the astronomical high tide rivaled 2016’s Hurricane Matthew; causing significant beach erosion and flooding lower-lying homes along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts.

Water rescues were conducted on Savannah’s south side, in the vicinity of where the Vernon and Little Ogeechee Rivers are connected by Houston Creek.

Extensive weather-related damage occurred at Fort Pulaski, for the third time within a year; following impacts from Hurricane Matthew and a May tornado. The monument was closed for a month after Irma, before reopening in October.

Irma's remnants produced isolated wind damage occurred throughout Georgia and South Carolina; primarily due to falling trees.

Major Hurricanes Irma, Maria, and Jose devastated portions of Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico within a months time. Estimated monetary damages from this hurricane season have topped 200 billion dollars; the most expensive in American History. Even worse, 2017’s tropical system-caused death toll may surpass 200.

But, there were some relative rays of light contrasted against the darkness. Forecast track accuracy was some of the greatest in modern history. The hardest part of a tropical system to forecast continues to be its intensity through lifespan and at landfall. 

Did you learn anything this hurricane season? Do you have questions that remain unanswered?

I posed similar thoughts on my Facebook page and received a variety of responses. 

Janice hit the nail on the head. It is known amongst weather-minded folks that each tropical system tends to have its own unique calling card; whether that be wind, storm surge or inland flooding. For example, Hurricane Ike in 2008 destroyed low-lying portions of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts with a storm surge that exceeded what is 'normally expected' with a Category Two hurricane. The large size and particularly low pressure fueled a storm surge more commonly associated with a Category Four hurricane; regardless of wind speed. This storm reminds many that there is far more to a tropical system's impact that wind speed.

Exactly. While sustained wind speeds do impacts storm surge, there are many other factors to consider including the size of a system's wind field, how low the pressure is, the orientation of landfall and topography of the impacted areas coastline. A prime example of the complexity of this factors was Major Hurricane Irma. The major hurricane made landfall nearly 500 miles away from the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. But, because the area of strong winds was so large, water level rises were observed all along the southeastern coast; including a storm tide rivaling Hurricane Matthew's near Tybee Island.

Diana brings up a good point. We've discussed how category of a hurricane doesn't always correspond well to level of local risk. The same is true for landfall location. Remember, the line you see down the middle of the cone of uncertainty is the forecast path of the center of circulation. Just the circulation. The cone of uncertainty, itself, only represents the area in which the center of the system could go. But, impacts from a tropical system can extend well beyond where the center makes landfall; as Irma proved locally this hurricane season.

Going forward, you and your loved ones need to:

  • Have a reliable source of breaking weather information
  • Know what risks your property faces during different tropical system scenarios
  • Develop and implement a hurricane safety plan
  • In the event of impacts, stay calm and practice community resilience 

While we're all happy that the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season has come to a close, let's use the off season to review plans and remedy any unanswered questions.

Stay with WTOC for weather coverage you can count on; on-air, at wtoc.com and in the WTOC Weather App, which is available for download here.

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