NU Online News Service, Nov. 30, 10:28 a.m. ESTThe 2011 Atlantic hurricane season ends today after a second-straight year of 19 tropical storms.
But unlike 2010, this season included a U.S. landfall—Hurricane Irene, a Category 2 storm, in late August.
Irene, which battered the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine, marked the first time a hurricane struck the U.S. since Hurricane Ike slammed Texas in 2008, and, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Irene was the most significant tropical cyclone to hit the Northeast since Hurricane Bob in 1991.
Jack Hayes, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, says Irene “broke the ‘hurricane amnesia’ that can develop when so much time lapses between land-falling storms.”
However, it’s been six years since a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) struck the U.S. The last time was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
The last two land-falling hurricanes—Ike and Irene—prove a major hurricane isn’t needed to cause major insured losses. Ike (a Category 2) caused more than $12.7 billion in insured losses, making it the third costliest hurricane in the U.S.
And if estimates from Verisk Analytics’ Property Claims Services and catastrophe modelers are correct, Irene could find a place in the top 10 costliest. PCS raised its estimate to $4.3 billion. Modeler AIR Worldwide says losses could reach $6 billion.
Some quick facts about the 2011 hurricane season:
- 19 tropical storms is tied for the third most (with 1887, 1995, and 2010) since records began in 1851.
- A typical hurricane season: 10-11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
- Three tropical cyclones made U.S. landfall, but Irene was the only hurricane to do so.
- The strongest hurricane was Ophelia, with sustained winds of 140 mph. The storm spun far off the East Coast.
- NOAA says several storms were so weak they may have gone undetected without modern technology.
- Seven tropical storms gained hurricane status and three strengthened to become major hurricanes.
Dan Kottlowski, tropical weather and hurricane expert with AccuWeather says, “Despite the high number of named systems, most storms were underachievers this year.”
An “unusually low” amount of named storms reached hurricane strength this year, adds Jeff Masters, a meteorologist and co-founder of The Weather Underground.
Just 37 percent of named storms strengthened to hurricanes this year. Normally 55-60 percent of all named storms get to hurricane status.
This year marks the first time a hurricane season began with eight named storms failing to reach hurricane status, Masters says.